As I’ve been working with seniors and those patients that are at the end of their life, one of the things I’ve struggled with is something to keep them entertained if they don’t really feel like visiting with me when I am there.  I’m usually visiting with them once a week and mostly they like to talk but sometimes they don’t feel like talking.  Oftentimes, I will read them a story but I also thought about playing games with them. Typical “games” that you and I might play, don’t exactly work for them.  If a game is too complicated (like Monopoly), patients with dementia can’t follow it.  Card games can be challenging too and even a simple game like Tic-Tac-Toe can be too complex and require logic and problem-solving skills that are too hard.

Enter the extra large piece JigSaw puzzle with 36 pieces!  First, the pieces are several inches wide and tall, so they are super easy for people to grab.  In patients where dexterity is a problem, these pieces are easy for them to grab and manipulate as opposed to traditional jigsaw puzzle pieces which are super small.  The next benefit is the fact that there are only 36 pieces to the puzzle.  This can easily be done in a 30 minute time slot (or maybe an hour) and therefore can be completed easily and quickly by the person.  Gone are the days when it used to take days or weeks to complete a 1,000 piece puzzle.  Those are typically too complex (especially for a dementia patient), take too long for the reward of finalizing the puzzle and in the event the patient is in a nursing home, there’s usually no place to leave the puzzle and continue to work on it.

The 36-piece puzzle is perfect.  I bought this particular one from Amazon.  It’s the Springbok 36-piece Puzzles to Remember.  They have several different styles to choose from but I started with the “Birds of a Feather” and it was a BIG hit with my patient.  She really enjoyed putting it together and it brought up some memories about birds that she’s seen.  It was such a joy to “play” with her and help her with this puzzle; it helped to exercise her brain and gave her positive reinforcement on completing a task.