Cognitive stimulation therapy involves activities and exercises aimed at improving cognitive functions like memory, attention, and reasoning in people living with dementia. While formal cognitive stimulation is often provided by professionals, family caregivers can be trained to provide effective cognitive stimulation at home. This article provides tips on developing cognitive stimulation games for at-home dementia care.
Cognitive stimulation has proven benefits for people living with dementia. Studies show that regular participation in word and number puzzles leads to better performance in memory, thinking, reasoning and other cognitive domains compared to no stimulation. Both word and number puzzles are effective, so the key is regular engagement in brain-stimulating activities.
Research also shows cognitive stimulation provides greater improvements in cognitive tests than standard dementia treatments like medication or daycare. The benefits also last longer after stimulation stops. Along with cognitive benefits, cognitive stimulation improves quality of life and communication abilities. When facilitated by family caregivers, it does not increase caregiver burden.
Cognitive stimulation is most beneficial for mild to moderate stage dementia. More focused activities like Namaste care may be better for later stages. More research is still needed on the optimal duration of cognitive stimulation.
The key to developing effective cognitive stimulation games for at-home dementia care is making activities enjoyable and tailored to the person’s interests and abilities. Here are some tips:
Focus on enjoyment over difficulty
Games should engage the person’s attention and interest first rather than intensely challenge cognition. Adapt activities to the person’s pace and current abilities.
Incorporate personal interests
Use family photos, favorite songs, career history or hobbies to create personalized activities. This helps engagement.
Try both new activities and familiar ones
Balance novel games that challenge the brain with adapted versions of lifelong hobbies to tap into retained abilities.
Focus on success
Break activities into small steps so the person can experience success. Provide encouragement and positive reinforcement.
Make it social
Turn games into social interactions with family members. Social engagement helps motivation.
Try puzzles plus physical and arts activities
Include word/number puzzles along with crafts, cooking, exercise or music to provide varied stimulation.
Keep it low-cost and simple
Use household items and engage the person in preparing materials. Avoid unnecessary expense.
Make it routine
Integrate regular cognitive stimulation into daily routines for sustained benefit.
Regular cognitive stimulation tailored to the person’s interests and adapted abilities can meaningfully benefit cognition and quality of life for people with dementia. Caregivers can provide effective stimulation through simple, engaging activities incorporated into daily home life. With some creativity and patience, cuidadores can develop activities to keep their loved one’s minds meaningfully engaged.