Dementia care: Expert reveals how games can help people battling dementia

Dementia is a syndrome associated with an ongoing decline of brain functioning. Symptoms can appear mild at first, but over the years can become very severe, leaving many patients unable to complete simple tasks by themselves. But John Ramsay, CEO of Shift8, believes poor quality of life doesn’t necessarily need to result from dementia if patients are encouraged to complete simple activities such as playing games. “A dementia diagnosis doesn’t need to mean a sudden change in an individual’s enjoyment of life and ability to live in the moment,” said Ramsay.

A dementia diagnosis doesn’t need to mean a sudden change in an individual’s enjoyment of life and ability to live in the moment

John Ramsay – Shift8

“It’s important to try and find new ways to keep them engaged and as a result, create many moments of happiness.

“Recent technological advancements and research means we are living in age of real breakthrough when it comes to dementia care, finding new ways to ensure that people with dementia can live high quality lives, and this can be from the simplest of ideas to latest innovations.”

According to Ramsay, introducing games into the everyday activities of people living with dementia has been proven to improve cognitive, social and physical wellbeing.

Games, Ramsay says, can create a stimulating environment, which can help patients experience humour, optimism, awareness and self-confidence.

“The most important factor when playing games with people who are on their dementia journey is the surrounding environment.

“Agitation is a very common characteristic of dementia, as there is a sudden unawareness of where they are, and why they’re there – which can be very stressful.

“Therefore, it’s important to create a collaborative and motivational environment to keep engagement levels high and stress levels low.”

When choosing a game to play with dementia patients, it’s important to note what stage of their dementia journey they are at, as not all games will be suitable.

Games suitable for people with early stage dementia include those involving upheaval, challenge and exploration.

“There are three parts of the brain that continue to work when someone has dementia: relaxation, sensory stimulation and reminiscence,” said Ramsay.

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“Activities trigger those parts of the brain to stimulate cognitive engagement which subsequently helps with physical and social engagement as well.

“Introducing games that strike a chord with the players will ensure that they are engaged and motivated. For example, a simple puzzle that creates an image that is familiar, such as a holiday destination or the garden.

“Importantly, the game needs to encourage participation to tackle the problem of isolation among people on their dementia journey.

“Engaging activities such as catching a ball, fishing or sweeping leaves are effective in triggering feelings of reminiscence and a encourages players to be engaged for longer.”

Thanks to advancements in technology, interactive light games can also help stimulate cognitive function in dementia patients, Ramsay explains.

“Interactive games projected onto a table that are rich in colour, movement and detail are all effective in engaging players. By projecting lights onto a table, it can keep players safe too, as players are all sitting down which avoids any confusion or vertigo if games were projected onto the floor or the walls.

“Playing games, no matter the age of the players, sparks creativity and happy moments and the joy that games bring is proven to help reduce cognitive decline among those with mid-to-late stage dementia.

“Technological innovation and research are working in harmony to establish new ways to help our ageing population and sometimes it can be as simple as sitting down and playing a game.”

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