As I have worked with seniors and patients that are at the end of their life, one of the things I struggle with was how to keep them entertained when they weren’t feeling up for interaction. Sometimes they just don’t feel like talking. One option is reading them a story but I also wanted to provide a fun option which they could participate in more actively. This took a bit of thinking — If a game was too complicated (like Monopoly), patients with dementia wouldn’t be able to follow it. Card games could be challenging, too, and even a simple game like Tic-Tac-Toe which requires anticipatory logic and problem-solving skills could be too demanding.
Enter the extra large piece JigSaw puzzle with 36 pieces! The pieces are several inches wide and tall, so they are super easy for people to grab. For patients where dexterity is a problem, these pieces are easy to grab and manipulate compared to traditional, small jigsaw puzzle pieces. The low piece count means the puzzle can easily be done in a 30-60 minute time slot. 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, and take too long for the reward of finalizing the puzzle. Furthermore, if 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 — I started with the “Birds of a Feather” and it was a BIG hit with one of my patients. She really enjoyed putting it together and it brought up pleasant memories of birds that she had 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.