Dementia and Jigsaw Puzzles
Growing up I always found gift giving for my parents difficult. Ties, perfume, cologne, perfume...boring!
My parents "oohed" and "ahhed" over my gifts, but the reality was, how many ties did my father need?
So when mom started having symptoms of dementia, the holidays really stumped me!
Bathrobes and slippers were my go to items. They made me feel good, and mom seemed to enjoy the gifts, that is, until I was the one who had to clean out the home and found all of my "wonderful" presents never used!
It appears that I'm not the only one with this problem because I've received several emails over the last few days from caregivers looking for holiday gifts
for their loved ones.
Through the years I've learned some gifts are better than others. The various stages of dementia will call for a little more ingenuity.
As many of us know, dementia affects everyone differently. There are many different symptoms of dementia, and those symptoms will help you pick the right gift. For example, some symptoms restrict activities and other symptoms might make other activities better. The key is to understand what the person with dementia is capable of doing and choosing your activity acccordingly. Different stages of dementia will result in different choices.
I'm constantly on the look out for great activities. Early this year I decided that my go-to gift would be jigsaw puzzles.
A recent article correctly noted that, "Dementia slows down the brain’s function and playing games like crosswords and solving puzzles is good for the affected person." This supports other findings like the one published recently in the Huffington Post where researchers from Germany found individuals who participated in dementia therapy (such as with puzzles) were effective at stopping their dementia from progressing further. The one-year study based on 61 participants also found patients were able to keep doing their everyday tasks. However, patients who only took dementia-slowing drugs had their dementia progress.
In addition to their therapeutic effects, puzzles also make for a great activity to do together.
So I set out to find the perfect puzzle.
The problem I faced was this: All the puzzles I found in nearby Miami stores were either too childlike or had too many pieces. I wanted something that would be age appropriate as the person progressed through their different stages of dementia.
Now, you should know that I'm a sucker for my clients, so it's not uncommon for me to troll the Internet late at night looking for just the right activity. I was searcing for an art book and suddently I stumbled onto a website that physically woke me up....
I found the perfect collection of jigsaw puzzles! These puzzles are based on nostalgic covers of the Saturday Evening Post, a well-treasured publication from the past of many dementia patients. Saturday Evening Post covers are perfect subject matter because they are age appropriate, fun and there are many to choose from.
Truth be told, everything looks great on the Internet, but before I recommend anything to my clients, I have to rigourosly test the product myself. Call me skeptical, but I've been burned too many times. So I contacted the maker to find out more.
It turns out that Karen Miller, the manufacturer of the puzzles, has a passion for the elderly. I learned that in 2007 she saw a show about Alzheimer's, and the show brought back all the memories of her mother. She remembered how her mother had suffered through many strokes and the symptoms of dementia. Karen is not only licensed to use the Saturday Evening Post covers, she was able to bring them back to life in her own unique way. The site describes how Karen came up with the idea:
"Her Mom always liked puzzles and playing cards, both became very difficult for her. Puzzle pieces being too small and puzzles too big were frustrating for her."
Karen also makes memory cards that are great for matching games and terrific for reminicence therapy.
I have personally found that the artwork on these puzzles motivates and stimulates memories, the pieces fit well in hands and they are solidly built. I also find it amazing to listen to patients as they remember their memories of Norman Rockwell and the Saturday Evening Post.
To learn more about these terrific puzzles, visit Karen's website at http://memoryjoggingpuzzles.com