Why they help, what games to play

Dementia it causes a progressive loss of a person’s cognitive abilities, which are crucial for daily functioning.

When someone has dementia, they may have problems with memory, thinking, reasoning or even language. Loss of these skills can make it difficult for people with dementia to carry out their daily activities.

While there is no cure for dementia, some treatment options can help alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life. For example, people often discuss the idea of ​​using memory games for dementia that can help stimulate the brain. But what does the study actually say about the role of brain-stimulating games for dementia?

In this article, we explore how brain games can help with cognitive functions and the best games to play.

Games are among the many activities that can keep the human mind entertained and engaged. But more importantly, games can help keep our brains stimulated. This is extremely important for older adults, especially those at risk of dementia.

For example, a 2019 study involving older adults explored the impact of 16 weeks of combined physical and cognitive “exergame” training. The researchers found that there was significant improvement in working memory and executive function.

or 2019 study investigated the effect of computerized cognitive training (in areas such as reasoning, memory, language and attention) on the progression of mild cognitive impairment. The results of the study showed that the training increased the volume of the brain’s gray matter and may help maintain general cognition.

So what do these studies have to do with brain games for dementia?

When someone has dementia, many of their cognitive abilities decline. These include some of the skills mentioned in these studies, such as memory and reasoning. And newer research has suggested that games can help improve these cognitive skills, especially in people with dementia.

Recently, a review from 2020 explored research on the role of serious games for dementia care. During the review, the researchers explored three types of games and their benefits:

  • Board games: These can help with cognitive functions such as memory, communication and emotional regulation.
  • Video games: Video games can be customized to directly target different cognitive skills, such as memory and reasoning.
  • Virtual reality games: These can provide cognitive and physical reinforcement, depending on the type of game.

According to the review, when early- and middle-stage dementia patients used serious games, they were able to improve a wide variety of cognitive skills, including:

  • short term memory
  • Response time
  • solving problems
  • logical reasoning

However, despite a fair amount of supporting evidence for the role of games in dementia care, the literature is still relatively mixed. For example, one more the last analysis in research on brain games and cognitive impairment found that brain games were no more effective for improving cognitive function than control interventions.

Ultimately, while there is some promise for the role of brain-stimulating games for dementia, more research is needed.

We’ve known for decades now that games can be a great way to stimulate the brain. However, not all games are created equal when it comes to the skills that can be trained. So here are some of the games that can support a wide variety of cognitive skills, especially for people with dementia.

Word puzzles

Word puzzles are a genre of games that focus specifically on language. Some games like Scrabble focus on arranging letters and words, while other games like crosswords focus on word recall. However, there are a wide variety of forms that word puzzles can take, such as the recently released Wordle.

2015 research suggests that playing games like crosswords, among other types of puzzles, can potentially lead to cognitive improvements in verbal learning, memory, speed and more.

With that in mind, consider trying some of these classic word puzzles:

  • crossword
  • word searches
  • anagram
  • cryptograms
  • branded games like Scrabble and Mad Libs

Jigsaw puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles are a type of puzzle game that are particularly useful for memory and reasoning. Jigsaw puzzles can range from simple puzzles that are easy to put together to more complex puzzles that require much more hand-eye coordination and memory recall.

Because people with dementia often struggle with cognitive skills like memory and reasoning, puzzles can be an easy way to support these skills. And the best part about these puzzles is that there’s a little something for everyone, from simple cardboard jigsaws to three-dimensional jigsaw sculptures and much more.

Dice games

There is a central component of luck in many dice games. Most rely on a random roll of the dice. This makes games like Yahtzee and Bar Dice more fun and competitive.

Old research from 2012 suggests that people with certain types of cognitive conditions, such as dementia, may experience a decline in numerical and computational skills. These skills can be practiced with dice games.

Here are some brain-simulating dice games to add to your repertoire:

  • ashtray
  • Kismet
  • Liar’s dice
  • Close the box
  • Yahtzee

Card games

Card games rely on different types of playing cards. Card games can use either a standard deck of cards, like Rummy, or cards that are specific to the game, like Uno.

Card games are great for practicing skills such as reasoning, problem solving, memory and concentration: the same skills that are often in decline in individuals with dementia.

With a wide variety of card games on the market, it can be hard to know where to start, so here are a few to get you started:

  • matching games, such as Go Fish
  • cheat games, such as Bridge
  • specific games, such as Uno
  • Variations of diamonds
  • collectible games, such as Pokémon trading card games

Board games

Board games are a genre of games that use a pre-made board, along with pieces, which are moved or placed on the board. Most board games, especially newer ones, also use cards, dice, and other elements.

or 2019 study that investigated the benefits of playing analog games, such as board games, among 1,091 participants found that a higher frequency of playing games resulted in less cognitive decline from age 70 to 79.

Considering the impact board games can have on cognitive health, here are some suggestions to add to your collection:

  • Monopoly
  • Irrelevant pursuit
  • Ticket for Travel
  • Cranium
  • chess

Video games

Video games include a wide range of electronic games, from traditional desktop computer games to games on newer systems such as the Wii and Switch. And let’s not forget mobile and tablet games, which are growing in popularity especially among adults.

Recent research supports the theory that specially designed brain training games can improve cognitive functioning in older adults, particularly in areas such as visual recognition, visual memory, and attention.

If you’ve never played video games before but are thinking about giving them a try, here are some good options to get you started:

  • TETRIS on any platform
  • Candy Crush Saga, online or mobile
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons on Nintendo Switch
  • Wii Sports on Nintendo Wii (also great for exercise)
  • any mobile or app version of classics such as word games, puzzles, card or dice games and board games

Games are not the only activities that can help support cognitive function in people with dementia. According to experts at Dementia Australia, other activities that may be helpful include:

  • Reading: Reading is a wonderfully enriching activity that involves more than just books. You can also read poetry, magazines, newspapers, comics and other content in print or online.
  • Entertainment: Watching TV shows or listening to radio shows are great examples of how modern entertainment can help keep the brain engaged.
  • Arts: Art comes in many forms, such as painting, drawing, and playing musical instruments. Any form of artistic expression is beneficial for people with dementia.
  • Lesson: Learning new things, whether through a class, YouTube videos, podcasts, or other means, is a great way to strengthen cognitive skills at older ages.

Some people with severe dementia may have difficulty doing even simple tasks, so some of the activities mentioned above may be difficult for them to engage in. and listening to music.

Should you play games alone or with another person, or does it matter?

While the research doesn’t say whether solo or multiplayer games are better for dementia, we do know that different types of games offer different cognitive benefits.

For example, crosswords are generally played alone and can be great for language and attention. But board games can also improve these skills, and playing with others provides socialization and communication skills.

Can brain games prevent or delay dementia if you start them early in life?

According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), nothing has been scientifically proven to prevent or treat dementia. However, there are some lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk. This includes staying cognitively active and socializing with family and friends, which brain games can help you do.

Who is most at risk of dementia and is there anything that can prevent the condition?

Science shows that the biggest risk factors for dementia are two things we can’t control: age and our genetics. Aging is the biggest risk factor for developing dementia, and this risk doubles every 5 years starting around age 70.

While the lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of dementia, no approach has been shown to prevent it completely.

Are there any medical treatments that can cure dementia once it develops?

According to the National Health Service (NHS), there is no cure for dementia. But some medications, cognitive treatments (such as cognitive stimulation therapy), and other lifestyle therapies can help manage some of the symptoms and possibly slow the progression of the disease in certain people.

Dementia affects approx 5 million adults 65 and older in the United States only. And future projections show a huge increase over the coming decades.

Research suggests that brain-stimulating games and other activities can improve cognitive functioning in older adults, as well as reduce the risk of developing dementia.

But the exact role of brain games in the prevention and treatment of dementia is unknown, and more research is needed to determine how useful these games can be.

However, even if we don’t know for sure whether games can help with dementia, we do know one thing: that they are a fun way to keep the brain engaged, active and entertained. any age.

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