May 9, 2017

A Simple But Powerful Dementia Care Game KISS

These dementia brain games can be enjoyed by two people, a large group, or young children can play these game with their grandparents.

Playing games  can enlivened Alzheimer's and dementia patients in a way that you no longer thought possible.

Sometimes, the answers we seek are right under our nose, sometimes, the simplest things can be the most powerful.

In our work with people who are living with dementia we find that the most effective approach is the one that provides the least movable parts.

The constant message we give to ourselves and those who use our program is the old adage, KISS - Keep It Simple Sweetie.

Also known as Keep It Simple Stupid.

By Tom and Karen Brenner
Alzheimer's Reading Room

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We understand how exhausting, frustrating and depressing caring for someone with dementia can be. 

Knowing this, we look for all of the simple ways that we can support both the person who has dementia and those who are their caregivers.

Dr. Maria Montessori the Italian physician and educator was one of the first in her field to understand the importance of one very simple fact: our brains learn by categorization.

We understand, at a very early age, how to define our complex and complicated world by category. Our minds store the image of a puppy and the image of a screwdriver in different places in the brain.

Dr. Montessori could only intuit this fact through scientific observation. Now we have FMRI screenings to prove that we do store different categories in different parts of the brain.

Now that we know that categories are stored throughout the brain, we can use this knowledge to develop some powerful and SIMPLE exercises to stimulate the mind.

While all of this great, new information may be interesting and even pretty to look at, what does this mean for someone who is living with dementia?

In our approach to positive dementia care, we use the idea of categories to develop word finding games. 

It may seem antithetical to give people living with dementia word games when many people with this condition struggle with language.

However, we have found that word finding games are a very powerful tool for reaching and staying engaged with people living with dementia. We emphasize the importance of giving people with dementia the opportunity to think about categories.

A very simple and effective word finding game is Category Sort.

We set up two similar but different categories to create this game.

For example, we would develop a list of things that belong in a purse and another list of words that name those things that belong in a tool box. These words are printed on separate cards and in large font for ease of reading.

For those people who no longer have the ability to read, we create this exercise by bringing out objects from a purse (lipstick, wallet, brush, keys), and objects from a tool box (pliers, hammer, screwdriver). We use toy tools for safety reasons.

These two categories are related; they are both containers. And they are different from each other in that they contain different objects.

Other examples of category sort would be: What clothes are worn in winter, what clothes are worn in summer? Things seen in a city, things seen in the country. What food tastes sour, what food tastes sweet?

Dr. Montessori created a category sort involving those things that are living and those things that are not alive (organic/inorganic).

You can set up this exercise using printed cards or objects (or use the two together). We have seen people with dementia having long discussions about these categories.

Is wool alive? It was on a sheep. Is cotton alive? It used to be a plant.

These discussions, this engagement is the goal we hope to achieve. Thinking in categories stimulates our brain and can lead to stimulating conversations!

These sorts of word games can be played by two people or with a large group.

Why do dementia patients ask the same questions over and over?

Children and grandchildren can play this game with their parent or grandparent. The object of the game is to build a bridge to the person living with dementia. It is our goal to give caregivers the simple tools they need to reach the people they care for. K-I-S-S!

These games are  scientifically proven to stimulate the brain; and, it is a positive way to reach and engage a person living with dementia.

Category: Caregiving. Which category are you?

Caregivers who want to have fun. Caregivers who have given up on having fun.

Enliven: to make (something) more interesting, lively, or enjoyable; to give life, action, or spirit to

If you decide to try these games you might be surprised to learn that dementia patients can become enlivened in a way that you no longer thought possible. You might also find that they are capable of more than you are currently imagining.

This simple realization could lead you to do more with them; and, experience the more joyful side of caregiving.

You Say Goodbye and We Say Hello

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Alzheimer's Care, Life, Burden, Happiness, Joy

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Tom and Karen Brenner are Montessori Gerontologists, researchers, consultants, trainers and writers dedicated to working for culture change in the field of aging. They are authors of You Say Goodbye and We Say Hello: The Montessori Method for Positive Dementia Care. This book earned the Alzheimer's Reading Room seal of approval.

The Alzheimer's Reading Room contains more than 5,000 articles and has been published daily since July, 2009.

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How to Get Answers To Your Questions About Alzheimer's and Dementia

The human brain is adept at recognizing similar items and placing them into categories — for example, dog versus cat, or chair versus table.

*** Empathy the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

*** Compassion a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate their suffering.

*** Purpose the reason for which something is done or for which something exists. Having as one's intention or objective.

*** Emotional super glue a bond that holds two people together and rises to a level that is so powerful, so all encompassing, that it can only be described in this way - you are bonded together by emotional super glue.

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