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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Team Style Solitaire for Alzheimer's and Dementia

I play a type of team style Solitaire with people who have early or mid-level dementia which pits two of us, or more, as a team against the cards. At one of our "Card Parties" a question like "Can you find a red queen or a black nine" helps a person with Alzlheimer's start to look for the needed cards. Then, "Hurray! we've got it!". People with Alzheimer's or dementia often respond well to images and visuals, and the cards don't need to be remembered, just found or matched.

Having an enthusiastic caregiver can help get the game rolling. The caregiver can offer suggestions, if needed, about what cards to look for next.

Finding ways to pass the time and provide stimulating activity can be a challenge for a caregiver assisting a senior with Alzheimer's or Dementia. If the senior lives alone at home there may be family caregivers or paid caregivers 24 hours a day. Adding pleasant, relaxing, but mentally stimulating activities can make the day a better one for both the caregiver and the senior.

The studies showing the positive effects of playing cards or board games for people with Alzheimer's or dementia are common knowledge. Studies of comparing the use of mental challenges and mental exercises versus mostly watching television shows that games and puzzles are the winner by far. Mostly watching television has been connected in many studies with losing mental skills. Television is passive, card games, board games, and puzzles are active.

If you are playing Solitaire, Go Fish, or other card games that a person with early or mid-Alzheimer's can share with you, there are also extra large playing cards for people with low vision. If arthritis has made handling the cards difficult the caregiver can turn and move the cards.

Sitting in a comfortable chair with arms is often a favorite place for frail seniors, and a TV table can be placed in front, plus a chair for the caregiver. Dining tables also provide the right height but the chairs might not have arms or be comfortable enough for a long session.

A real "card party" means snacks, beverages, and perhaps soft background music. If a senior with Alzheimer's or Dementia has lost interest in many activities, the caregiver can try starting a game and "asking for some help" finding the cards. Sometimes the elderly person will watch for awhile and then tentatively begin to join in. Just watching and cheering someone else on is enjoyed by some people.

Games of cards like Concentration are easier than Solitaire and may be suitable for people in more advanced Alzheimer's or Dementia. In Concentration each player turns over two cards, and if the cards match the player gets another turn. You can buy Concentration with various pictures, or make your own cards from scratch and use themes that mean something special or relate to someone's interests.

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