20 Family Games to Play With a Loved One Who Has Alzheimer’s

by Alzheimer's Activities6 comments

Do you have a loved one who was diagnosed recently with Alzheimer’s disease? Are you wondering how to connect with them during family gatherings this holiday season? How about a family game night!

Game time is fun time because it avoids much of the awkwardness that often comes when trying to hold a conversation with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease.

When Dad was diagnosed, he became quiet and withdrawn. When we would try to strike up a conversation, he often replied with one-word answers or turned to Mom for her to respond on his behalf.

Dad was aware there was a problem, but he didn’t understand it, so he faded into the background. Maybe you are experiencing something similar with your loved one?

My siblings and I began rediscovering games from our childhood and jigsaw puzzles, too, always trying to engage Dad in these activities with us and his grandkids.

We found that Dad was more vocal when he was involved in an activity. And of course, we wanted him to continue to use his language skills for as long as possible.

Through trial and error, we discovered some favorites that three generations can enjoy. Maybe your family would enjoy some of these at your next holiday gathering? In fact, your kids or grandkids might even have some of these already.

 

HERE ARE 20 GAMES AND PUZZLES TO PLAY WITH A LOVED ONE WHO HAS ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE.

 

1. Rack-O

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When Dad was in early-stage Alzheimer’s, he was able to play simple games with us like Rack-O. We had not played in a few years since my son became an over-scheduled teenager. So it was fun to rediscover this game with Dad. My elementary school-aged nieces and nephews enjoyed playing Rack-O with Grandpa, too.

In this game, each player has 10 cards with numbers ranging from zero to 50. You take turns drawing one card and discarding one card to assemble the cards from lowest to highest. At this point in Dad’s Alzheimer’s, he could no longer count coins or make change with paper money. But he could play – and win – Rack-O!

 

2. Skip-Bo

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My Texas Granny taught us this game when we were young kids, and it has been a family favorite ever since. Then when I introduced my Connecticut in-laws to Skip-Bo, they said it’s the commercial version of Spite and Malice. So whether you know this game as Skip-Bo or as Spite and Malice, it’s easy to play, as long as your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can still count to 12.

Each player receives a personal stack of 30 cards, with the goal of being the first to play all 30 cards on the four common stacks in the middle. Players build on the common stacks in ascending order. Dad would sometimes forget and try to play a card in descending order. When this mistake became too frequent and he started to become frustrated, we knew it was time to retire Skip-Bo. But it brought our family many hours of enjoyment with Dad during the early years of his Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

 

3. UNO

I spent so much time as a kid playing this classic card game that I don’t feel I ever need to play it again. But everything old is new again when you’re with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease. This was a great game for Dad to play with the grandkids in the early years of his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. It’s such a popular game, you likely already own it!

 

 

4. Winter Barnyard Puzzle

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My sister discovered the Cobble Hill series of family puzzles. Each box includes 350 pieces, ranging from small, medium and large. Family members of all skill levels will enjoy working on this together. It’s something we like to set up on a card table on day one of a family vacation, with the goal of completing it by week’s end. Thanks to this puzzle series, Dad was able to enjoy and participate in a family activity without his Alzheimer’s sending him to the sidelines. Thank you Cobble Hill for creating this excellent series of puzzles for Alzheimer’s seniors.

IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER, HERE ARE MORE ENGAGING GAMES TO PLAY WITH A LOVED ONE WHO HAS ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE …

 

5. Barrel of Monkeys
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Dad became fascinated with colors, especially primary colors, as the Alzheimer’s disease progressed. Plus he had preschool and elementary school-age grandkids who loved to hang out with and be silly with Grandpa. This is the perfect game for that!

 

 

6. Bingo

Dad struggled with math early on the Alzheimer’s journey, but he could still identify numbers. Playing Bingo is a great way to engage a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.

 

 

 

 

7. Boggle

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Dad could still read through early-stage Alzheimer’s, although his vocabulary started to decline. This game is rated for ages eight and up. There is a Boggle Junior game if this one is too challenging. Check it out.

 

8. Charades

My five-year-old niece loves playing charades. Her impression of a skunk fills the house with laughter every time. It has been a wonderful multi-generational game to play during the quarantine. If your loved with Alzheimer’s is a ham, they are sure to enjoy this game.

 

 

 

9. Connect Four

This classic game is still fun for all ages and abilities to play. There are even oversized, wooded, pack-and-go versions, too, that are fun to take on an outdoor family reunion or picnic.

 

 

 

10. Dominoes

This Mexican Train Dominoes game was a weekend favorite at the independent living community where my parents lived when Dad was still considered early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

 

 

11. Jenga Giant

You’re never too old to play with these wooden blocks. At your next family gathering, set this game out on a coffee table and let the kids and your loved one with Alzheimer’s test their dexterity while stacking blocks into a three-foot tower.

 

 

12. Old Maid

This simple card game brings back so many childhood memories of playing cards with my cousins and my Granny. In fact, I think Old Maid was the first card game I ever learned to play. This six pack includes Go Fish and four other popular games too. I hope your loved one with Alzheimer’s will find enjoyment in at least one of the games included in this set.

 

 

13. Pictionary

If your loved one with Alzheimer’s is struggling with spelling and numbers, then give this game a try. This version is rated for ages eight and up. There is a Junior version too that might be more appropriate depending on the progression of your loved one’s disease.

 

 

14. Rummikub

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Try this large numbers version of this classic game. Consider taking a sharpie and drawing a line under the numbers six and nine to differentiate easily.

 

 

15. Qwirkle

Match colors or shapes using all of your tiles to win this game, rated for ages six and up. If your loved one with Alzheimer’s likes this game then consider playing the Qwirkle Rummy card game, too.

 

 

16. Scrabble

This game is a great brain boost and something that loved ones with Alzheimer’s likely played a few times in their prime.

 

 

17. Scattergories

Lots of laughs ensue with this game that is very interactive and is suitable to play with up to six people. It is rated for ages 12 and older.

 

 

 

18. Taboo

Get the whole family involved in this kids versus adults guessing game with two decks of cards. It is rated for ages eight and older.

 

 

 

19. Tenzie

There are nine ways to play this dice game, allowing you to experiment and find the version best suited for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.

 

 

20. Zingo

This variation on Bingo is rated for ages four and older and is perfect for the loved one with Alzheimer’s who no longer reads numbers.

 

21. Bonus Puzzles - because I love them so much!

 

When you find yourself parenting your parents, it helps to have some tips and tricks to cope. And rather than manage in isolation, involve the family in caring for and engaging your loved one with memory loss. Ask a family member to organize a game night so you are not constantly trying to entertain them.

Or, share this list with extended family and suggest the games you think would make excellent gifts for your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Sometimes people want to send a little something but have no idea what would be appropriate.

Or you might also consider donating a game to a senior living community near you as a way to spark joy this holiday season.

With so many communities banning visitors, our seniors are relying on activity directors more than ever to provide fun ways to connect with each other, keep their minds engaged and avoid isolation.

Note: If you shop the links in this post, I potentially earn a small commission, but at no cost to you. It helps me to cover the expenses of hosting a website. Many thanks!

 

CAREGIVERS SHARE:

What puzzles and games do you like to play with your loved one who has memory loss? Please share in the comments below because we’re all in this together!

6 Comments

  1. Donna Garrison

    Some of my favourite games are on here: scrabble, connect four, boggle, plus jigsaw puzzles. What a great way to spend time with family members who have dementia or Alzheimer’s.

    Reply
  2. Jamie

    What a great idea! Thanks for sharing these. I love playing games with my husband to keep our minds sharp.

    Reply
  3. Joe @ Mini Riches

    These are all great games! My grandmother just passed away a few weeks ago after battling dementia for 15 years. It’s such a horrible disease.

    Reply
    • Sally

      I am so sorry for your loss. Learning to live with loss is tough. Peace!

      Reply
  4. WWW.XMC.PL

    Of course, what a fantastic blog and instructive posts, I definitely will bookmark your blog.All the Best!

    Reply
  5. Tomasz Michalowski

    I found your blog using Bing and I must say this is one of the most informative blogs I have read in a while. I will make sure I come back to read your future posts.

    Reply

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