Memory Card Games for Alzheimer's & Dementia Patients

Mem.o.ry:

1. a: the power or process of reproducing or recalling what has been learned and retained especially through associative mechanisms

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed.

Memory is a process that we take for granted when it comes naturally, just like other essential functions like we never think about, such as seeing, hearing and smelling. We cruise along on autopilot until tragedy or illness impairs one of these precious gifts. Then, in a moment, our lives can be turned inside out. It's rarely a singular effect; for people with Alzheimer's and dementia, their loved ones suffer the effects of this loss, too.

SEE ALSO: Find Memory Care Near You

Developing Games to Combat Memory Loss

I recently wrote about the memory jogging puzzles that I developed for dementia patients. I knew I was on the right track the first time I took the puzzles with the Norman Rockwell images to an Assisted Living Center with an Alzheimer's Unit to show them to the residents. It was amazing to watch the residents study the images, the men gently touching the images as if they personally knew the people in the covers from The Saturday Evening Post. The images stirred their emotions and prompted long-buried memories. Observing the residents closely, I felt inspiration strike again. Would the residents benefit from exposure to the same images, but in a different activity?

The activity directors who advised me when I designed the puzzles had said I should think of activities that young children enjoy, but find a way to make them age-appropriate, such as with an adult theme. On another trip to test my memory jogging puzzles, I brought along a few sample cards with the same Norman Rockwell images, just to see whether the residents would be interested. I'd been told that it would be best to keep the sessions no longer than a half hour because the residents get tired and they lose interest. But a funny thing happened on that visit: the residents didn't get tired and lose interest"”they had fun and they were excited. So was I!

Introducing the cards, I worked with Florence, a resident in her 90s who was very detail-oriented and quick to find matching cards. We played with the cards face up. At one point Florence picked up one of the cards and brought it to her face for closer inspection. When I asked her what she saw, she pointed to a dark area, calling it "the shadow." Then Florence told me that she was blind in one eye and had poor vision in the other. I couldn't believe it! She had been so engaged in our game up to that point that I never would have known she had a problem if she hadn't mentioned it. Even earlier in my visit, when we were working on the puzzles, she had no problems. That's when I realized: the images on the puzzles were larger, and the prototype cards were the size of regular playing cards.

After working with Florence, I decided to develop oversized cards. At 3.5 x 5", the images would be large and detailed. Florence's comment about the shadow also made me realize that there had to be separation between the colors so that they would be distinct once they were printed.

MatchMate: Early, Mid and Advanced Memory Loss

I developed the card game MatchMate as a memory activity and brain exercise game that engages the players’ emotional and recollection memory as well as their problem-solving skills. It’s easy to play, the rules being similar to “Go Fish.” But it differs in a couple of key ways. First, the themes are age-appropriate. The Norman Rockwell images from The Saturday Evening Post covers engage the elderly person, prompting memories and reminiscence. Second, the images tell a story, helping loved ones interact with the elderly player, by encouraging conversation.

SEE ALSO: Find Memory Care Near You

Both "MatchMate" and "What's Mis_ing?" encourage success, with their engaging images and face-up playing strategy. The problem with other games of concentration is that they are played with the cards face down, which can cause feelings of failure and frustration when residents forget what they’re looking for. If residents find an activity difficult and think they can’t do it, sometimes they won’t even try. "MatchMate" and "What's Mis_ing?" are easy, non-intimidating activities. To assure success I start with two pairs, then gradually add more cards. That way the players enjoy a feeling of success from the beginning and will continue to play. Fewer cards equals more success and less frustration—and most importantly, more smiles!

What's Mis ing? For Early Stage Memory Loss

"What's Missing?" requires the caregiver or family member to draw the player’s attention to different items in the image and talk about them. There are six image sets with three cards per set: one card with a full image; a second card with something missing from the image; and a third card showing the missing item. The game is more challenging than "MatchMate", but it uses the same images for memory recollection and requires the player to use problem-solving skills to complete the task, which is discovering what’s missing from the images. "What's Mis_ing?" is played face up also. It’s ideal for helping seniors with early-stage memory loss to strengthen their memory skills, but it may be too difficult for others with more advanced memory loss. Although the game is simple, it sometimes takes players a few moments to decide what matches or is missing in the image, and sometimes they need hints. This is fun way for caregivers and family members to interact with the player in a loving, supportive role.

Gossips: No Memory Loss to Early Stage Memory Loss

For seniors with no memory loss to those in the early stages of dementia, I developed a new memory and concentration card game, which features images from The Saturday Evening Post cover dated March 6, 1948, entitled “Gossips.” This famous cover has fun image pairs of men and women gossiping. The card game is similar to MatchMate, where players must find the matching card. The hilarious images feature similarities that encourage the players to watch for detail, and draw on their memory and problem-solving skills to match the cards. With fifteen different pairs showcasing hairdos, hats, caps and other great fashions from that era, the game also encourages conversation and reminiscing.

All three of these memory card games are great brain exercises, in addition to being wonderful for players’ memory recollection, concentration and problem-solving skills, and hand-eye coordination. The images from The Saturday Evening Post covers, with their power to prompt reminiscing, help make both games the best memory activities and brain exercises on the market.

I designed these games to meet the needs of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and I remain committed to meeting those needs. If I find something isn’t working, I will change it. If you are looking for beneficial memory and brain exercise activities that your elderly residents or loved ones will enjoy, "MatchMate," "What's Mis_ing?" and "Gossips" are exactly what you need.

SEE ALSO: Find Memory Care Near You


about 1 year ago, said...

Thank you for your interest. You can find these and more Memory Exercise Cards here: http://memoryjoggingpuzzles.com/catalog/index.php/cPath/21


about 1 year ago, said...

where can i buy these card games?


almost 2 years ago, said...

how do you obtain these games?


almost 2 years ago, said...

Where can I purchase the Match Mate and What's Mis ing card games


about 3 years ago, said...

These are available for purchase, here are links to the cards used in this article. http://memoryjoggingpuzzles.com/catalog/index.php/cPath/21 Link to catalog - all memory exercise card games: http://memoryjoggingpuzzles.com/catalog/index.php/cPath/21 Link to memory cards on website: http://www.memoryjoggingpuzzles.com/dementia-activities/ Link to website: http://memoryjoggingpuzzles.com


over 3 years ago, said...

medic64... you were talking about when memories were triggered you always see a smile, this is very true and watch for the twinkle in their eyes. I would like to share with you 2 new memory card games, just added today. Hats & Bonnets Matching Game has wonderful hats & bonnets men and ladies wore long ago. Hats were loved by all and these will trigger those memories of fun times and their hats & bonnets. Shapes Matching Game is a memory and cognitive exercise. Game is in black/white to help those with low vision. Great shapes: solid & outline and word describing shape. Many ways to play game. http://bit.ly/r5vI7p


over 3 years ago, said...

It was already helpful. I too take care of dementia patients that are in end stage, and I find them quite unique in their abilities. The group still loves to be active and have attention; if not give their attention to another by helping others there with them. I have seen that with an extended time frame with games or even with conversation these people do become tired easily. When speaking with them: I can see their smiles when a good deep memory is triggered.


almost 4 years ago, said...

hi marshshoe, Thank you for your interest in the memory cards with Norman Rockwell Paintings. I also have memory cards and word match game with illustrations from Sarah Stilwell Weber. Her work is from early 1900's, she specialized in children, mostly little girls. Awesome work! My website has been updated so I will give you new links. website: http://memoryjoggingpuzzles.com Memory Games in website: http://bit.ly/PqCfcS Memory Games in catalog: http://bit.ly/r5vI7p


almost 4 years ago, said...

Do you sell the card game with the Norman Rockwell paintings? I wouldn't know whereelse to find the game.


about 4 years ago, said...

Memory Cards (matching card games) pictures and description. http://bit.ly/r5vI7p Story Memory Exercise Cards: http://bit.ly/UQD45i


about 4 years ago, said...

would like to see the memory cards that were used


about 4 years ago, said...

This is a link directly to shopping cart where you can view all of the card games. http://bit.ly/r5vI7p

website address: http://memoryjoggingpuzzles.com sorry for the frustration.


about 4 years ago, said...

The writer tells how helpful the card games are. A resource listing of where to get the games would be helpful. I tried to look it up online, but was referred back to this sight. Frustrating


about 4 years ago, said...

A direct link to card games in store: http://bit.ly/r5vI7p A couple of new card games added since this article and a 20 piece puzzle. website:http://memoryjoggingpuzzles.com


about 4 years ago, said...

How do I get these games? They sound great!


over 4 years ago, said...

Definitely strikes a chord. Using Rockwell is a brilliant idea.


over 4 years ago, said...

How does one get the cards? Are they appropriate for a patient who does not speak?


almost 5 years ago, said...

How can we get these games?


almost 5 years ago, said...

So WHERE do I find these games? Are they available for purchase??


about 5 years ago, said...

send me the games... or tell me how to make my own cards and games please.


about 5 years ago, said...

hi Lynn, These memory cards and puzzles are for sale, here is a short cut to the memory exercise cards in the shopping cart. http://bit.ly/r5vI7p Also, I've added a new memory game, played like MatchMate (more cards) called "Happy Days" - illustrations by Sarah Stilwell Weber Collection from The Saturday Evening Post covers - 1908 - 1926. Her work captures the innocence of yesterday, we can all relate. Information on http://memoryjoggingpuzzles or a shortcut to her memory cards: http://bit.ly/mcpQz7 PS: I also have 6, 12 and new 20 piece puzzles with her work and Norman Rockwell. ~karen


about 5 years ago, said...

Hi lynn288, Thanks for your question. You can find and purchase these card games here:http://memoryjoggingpuzzles.com/catalog/index.php. Hope that helps. Take care -- Emily | Community Manager


about 5 years ago, said...

Where would one find these cards? Are they for sale?


over 5 years ago, said...

My apologies to the above, I didn't realize there were comments. I am the developer of Memory Jogging Puzzles and Match Games. Please visit: http://memoryjoggingpuzzles.com Just added new themes: Happy Birthday Mrs Jones; Homecoming Marine and others. New gossips LV (low vision) karen


over 5 years ago, said...

Hi Pattcake, Thanks for your question. You can purchase these card games here:http://memoryjoggingpuzzles.com/catalog/index.php. Hope that helps. -- Emily | Community Manager


over 5 years ago, said...

Can a person order these card games?


over 5 years ago, said...

The article was well written and informative


almost 6 years ago, said...

knowing more about activitis and games i could do with the residents


about 6 years ago, said...

For those who have asked, you can purchase these memory games at MemoryJoggingPuzzles.com. Here's a direct link to their online catalog: http://memoryjoggingpuzzles.com/catalog/index.php


over 6 years ago, said...

I would have liked to know where to buy the sets of cards. It's very unsatisfying not to know where to obtain these cards.


over 6 years ago, said...

I would like to know how to purchase the memory card games mentioned in this article - the nursing home where my husband is needs things like this...