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Gift Ideas for the Mentally Blah

I know a sweet woman who is wheelchair bound and has a full-time, live-in caregiver.  The caregiver is pleasant, and competent, and fulfills her duties very efficiently.  But she’s not big on engagement.  The woman, Daisy, sits most of the day staring at the television, curtains drawn, while the caregiver either lies on the couch or busies herself with her job responsibilities.

Daisy does not have any glaring cognitive deficits.  She is a little slow to respond, a little forgetful, and feels a little embarrassed when she doesn’t know the answer to something she should easily recall.  Daisy does not have dementia, but Daisy is grossly understimulated (mentally blah!).

Whenever I see Daisy, I open the curtains.  I also bring an upbeat, cheerful attitude into the room. I get her moving and I get her laughing.  I put on music and I make her sing.  We reminisce about the past and talk about the future.  And once her brain is awake and responding, we play.

Here is a list of games that get neural connections firing.  I try to be intentional in my selection- sometimes we want to work on motor responses, sometimes attention, sometimes memory, and sometimes language.  The caregiver is motivated to play with Daisy because games are fun, not work.  I think games that provide an element of anticipation and risk are great for attention and alertness.  Transitioning to a purposeful activity (eating, self-care, opening mail) after some “game time” should be more productive and meaningful.

  1.  Simon
  2. Perfection
  3. Jenga
  4. Memory
  5. Go Fish
  6. Gestures
  7. Pictionary
  8. Pie Face (talk about stimulating!)
  9. Trivia
  10. Charades
  11. Scrabble
  12. Wheel of Fortune

What other games can you think of?  Great gift ideas for the “mentally blah”, understimulated folks you may know!

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  1. Janelle Billett

    I tried to get my Mum involved with Yahtzee tonight. It was a game she really enjoyed playing and even had a little electronic version she could play on her own. She does have dementia and although she said she would like to play she didn’t know what to do so I let it go figuring it would only highlight the losses.

    • Hi Janelle, that’s funny because my family is really into Yahtzee right now too. Yahtzee is a fairly complex game, and it requires a lot of higher cognitive functions to play. If it’s something you think she would enjoy, just try simplifying it. She probably remembers the context- roll the dice and enter numbers on the form. You could prefill the harder boxes, and just let her roll for pairs or 3 of a kind. You can even use fewer dice- just 2 or 3. It’s not so much about the score or the outcome, it’s about participating in familiar activities with some degree of success. Keep at it! Let me know how it goes.

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