Put simply, a puzzle poses a problem to be solved. The problem-solving process is a cognitive exercise—puzzles have therapeutic value! We see repeatedly that the stimulation provided by these activities improves memory and brain function. That is true for most everyone who engages in these brain-games. It is why puzzles for Alzheimer’s are such and important part of an overall treatment program for people who have dementia.
Solving Puzzles is Good for Your Brain
Puzzles to Remember is the line of jigsaw puzzles inspired by Max Wallack, and showcased by The Grammie Whisperer in the video below. (We love this young lady and how she took it upon herself to care for her grandmother who had Alzheimer’s disease)
Bright colors, beautiful themes, memorable subjects; Puzzles to Remember are designed specifically to be Puzzles for Alzheimer’s.
Crosswords, spot-the-difference, trivia, missing words, mazes; all of these activities are fun and have a right answer. And all are cognitively stimulating. Here is a collection of puzzles with an appropriate level of difficulty.
Puzzles – perhaps the ultimate brain activity
Puzzles come in many forms and can be simple or extremely difficult. For this reason, puzzles are an excellent choice when looking for an activity for your loved one with dementia. Because they exist to be solved, puzzles provide cognitive stimulation, and that is just what we are looking for. Medical science continually shows us that stimulating the brain makes it better, even if that brain is damaged by Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
One of the nicest features of many puzzles is that they can be group activities. This is especially true of jigsaw puzzles. Picture, for example, a family sitting around the kitchen table, pieces of a jigsaw puzzle strewn about on the table top. These family members are working together to achieve a unified goal. Whereas games tend to foster competitiveness, puzzles can foster cooperation, everyone working for a shared goal, and this collaborative spirit can inspire conversation and socialization.
There are many types of puzzles, and almost all types can be considered appropriate puzzles for Alzheimer’s disease, or for any other dementia or cognitive disorder. It is not the type of puzzle but the difficulty of the puzzle that deems it appropriate or inappropriate for given audience.
We generally associate “jigsaw” and “crossword” with the word “puzzle”, but “puzzle” can also apply to brain-teasers; mazes; logic and mathematical puzzles; paper-and-pencil puzzles, like Sudoku, or the variety of puzzles found in our Senior Smart Puzzles and trivia books. You can find puzzles of most of these types in our store, and all are appropriate Alzheimer’s puzzles.
A puzzle should be fun for the person who is involved in solving it. A puzzle should not be too easy, nor should it be too hard. Puzzles that are too easy and solved quickly are disappointing; a puzzle needs to present a worthy challenge. On the other hand, puzzles that are too hard are discouraging; this is especially true for someone who is struggling with the effects of a cognitive disorder.
Unfortunately, it has become more difficult to get Puzzles to Remember in this time of Covid. Hopefully, we will return them to our inventory soon. On the other hand, we still have a good selection of dementia-appropriate jigsaw puzzles, and they are less expensive. And those we do have provide the same benefits.
Puzzles for Alzheimer’s
- Susan M. Landau; Shawn M. Marks; Elizabeth C. Mormino; et al: Association of Lifetime Cognitive Engagement and Low β-Amyloid Deposition. Archives of Neurology online doi:10.1001/archneurol.2011.2748
- Pillai, J. A., Hall, C. B., Dickson, D. W., Buschke, H., Lipton, R. B., & Verghese, J. (2011). Association of Crossword Puzzle Participation with Memory Decline in Persons Who Develop Dementia. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society : JINS, 17(6), 10.1017/S1355617711001111. http://doi.org/10.1017/S1355617711001111
The results of a clinical survey¹ of 65 elderly volunteers (average age 76) was published in the Archives of Neurology (online). The investigators at the University of California, Berkeley were looking for a relationship between lifestyle and cognitive decline that others have reported.
The team, led by Susan Landau, reported a significant correlation between time spent with cognitive activity, like reading books and doing crossword puzzles, and resistance to Alzheimer’s disease. They also found that the strength of that resistance to be directly proportional to the amount of time spent engaged in such activity. This was true across the lifespan, but protection against cognitive decline was strongest in individuals who were cognitively active in early and middle life.
They conclude that, “..lifestyle factors found in individuals with high cognitive engagement may prevent or slow deposition of β-amyloid, perhaps influencing the onset and progression of AD.”
A similar study published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society reached a similar conclusion, but one that is more relevant to people who already have dementia; “Our findings show that late life crossword puzzle participation, independent of education, was associated with delayed onset of memory decline in persons who developed dementia.”
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