Dementia does not mean it’s time for the fun to end. In fact, there has been a great deal of research conducted to study the benefits of playing games in those who suffer from dementia. By choosing an appropriate game, patients can enjoy a boost in cognition and memory, stronger connections in relationships, increased alertness, and improved social skills.
Keep in mind that games should be chosen by taking into account a person’s cognitive and physical capabilities. Avoid physically strenuous or over-complicated games, while remembering that many games can be adapted to suit the abilities of your loved one or patients.
If you’re looking for an exciting way to improve the life of a loved one or patient, check out our list of best board game activities for dementia.
🏆 Our Top Picks for Best Board Game Activities for Dementia Patients
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Playing time: 30mins
All the fun of original Blokus, but with a larger game board and larger pieces.
Don’t be intimidated by the fact that it’s an abstract game, it’s easy to learn and fun to play!
In this tile placement game, players begin with 21 colorful Tetris-like pieces which they will take turns placing on the board. There’s just one simple rule in Blokus: each newly placed tile must touch at least one already played piece of the same color — but only at the corner. This means no edge-to-edge placements can be made. The game is played until no more pieces can be played.
The game requires a little bit of strategy and concentration which can provide excellent mental benefits for those with dementia. Additionally, the large board and pieces can be particularly beneficial if there are any ailments such as arthritis that make it especially difficult to maneuver small pieces.
Playing time: 30mins
Sequence is a bit like a card version of Connect 4. It’s simple to learn and offers enough of a challenge to be exciting without being overwhelming.
The game can be played in teams, and the goal is to get five of your chips in a row while blocking the other team from doing the same. Players begin by playing a card from their hand and choosing which of the two matching spaces on the board they’d like to place their chip. Throughout the game, be on the lookout for unexpected bonuses that will help you on your way to victory.
Because of the short play time, this is a great choice for those who struggle to focus. The rules are simple, so players can gain confidence as they independently make their next move. This larger version is easier on the eyes and lessens strain when scanning the board for matches.
Playing time: 45mins
Call-To-Mind was specifically created for those who live with dementia and Alzheimer’s through years of research. It’s a communication game developed to help recall memories and encourage conversation while stimulating your loved one’s mind.
The goal is to collect one card from each color category. It’s as simple as flicking the spinner, picking up a card, and answering the question. It is a great way for families spanning multiple generations to get to know each other. Or for caregivers to learn about their patients. The game allows people to reminisce and recall happy memories.
Included with the game is a feedback page where interesting answers can be written down and referenced later or shared with other caregivers. Play it with your family, a caregiver, or even with other seniors. This game is best played during the early and mid stages of dementia.
Playing time: 30mins
A quiz where all the answers already lie in your hand! Oh — and they’re all colors!
Each team is dealt 11 color cards at the beginning of the game. It’s as simple as choosing the color cards that answer the questions. Like what color were Dorothy’s shoes in the Wizard of Oz? What is the color of the Oreo logo? What two colors make up the color purple? Work as a team guess the right answers and rack up the points.
The teamwork aspect of this game not only takes the pressure off of having to correctly recall every image but also fosters a playful environment for enhancing social skills.
Playing time: 10mins
For a game with simple rules, that also involves a little dexterous activity, add Connect 4 to the mix. The simple strategy aspect is great for exercising the brain, and its quick play time allows patients and loved ones to stay focused without growing bored.
It’s as easy to play as dropping your colored chips into the grid to try to create 4 in a row. Connections can be made vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. If you see your opponent is moving towards victory, be one step ahead and strategically place your chips to block them and stay in the game.
Connect 4 is a fun, hands-on way to spend time with your loved one. The combination of strategy with small, intentional movements is why you’ll often find this game recommended for those suffering from dementia.
Playing time: 45mins
A combination of Scrabble and Dominoes, this abstract strategy game will have players mixing and matching tiles to score big and win.
Starting with just six tiles each, players use a combination of differently colored and shaped pieces to create rows and columns to earn points. Lines can only be comprised of like shapes or colors. The longer your row, the more points you earn. Manage to get all 6 shapes or colors in a row and you score big!
Qwirkle is great for encouraging well-thought-out strategy and thinking on your feet. During the earlier stages of dementia, this is a game the whole family can enjoy. If needed in later stages, start to decrease the number of pieces used to make play a bit simpler.
Playing time: 30mins
UNO is one of those classic card games played by families throughout the world. If your loved one already has some experience playing UNO, there are no new rules to learn, and a certain level of confidence and comfort is already instilled. If not, the rules are fairly simple, and once they start playing, it will probably be hard to stop.
Begin the game by dealing 7 cards to each player. Once the first card is played from the draw pile, it’s time to match, skip, reverse, and wild card your way through the game. Play cards with matching numbers or colors, use a specialty card, or draw a card from the deck until you have a card you can play. Don’t forget to yell “UNO!” when you have just one card left, or you’ll be stuck adding another 4 cards to your hand.
If needed, adapt the rules to ensure the game is fun and not frustrating. The colorful cards and simple rules make this one of the top-recommended games for those suffering from dementia.
Train of Thought
Playing time: self-paced
Train of Thought is your one-way ticket to communication, connection, and fun!
Players take turns drawing cards from the center deck. The cards come in three different colors, each of which represents a different train compartment. To win the game, you need to be the first to complete your train of thought by collecting 3 complete compartments sets, one set of each color.
With 110 exciting questions, this bonding activity is great for nurturing connections with family members that span multiple generations. The thought-provoking questions spark up meaningful conversations and players can learn new things about each other.
This is a great option for combating the lesser talked about feelings of loneliness and isolation that can be a result of dementia. Use the cards to spark up silly or intriguing conversations and strengthen your relationships with those you love.
Rummikub Large Numbers Edition
Playing time: 60mins
The perfect combination of luck and strategy, Rummikub has long been a crowd favorite. It’s easy to learn and the ever-changing nature hooks people’s attention.
Each player starts the game with 14 tiles on their rack. On a player’s turn, they can place a set of 3 or more tiles that are the same number in different colors, or tiles that are the same color, but have consecutive numbers (2, 3, 4).
The goal is to be the first person to get rid of all your tiles. As the game progresses, players need to use strategy to effectively use their tiles, or rearrange and manipulate the board in their favor.
This is an excellent activity for those in the earlier stages of dementia as they use focus and working memory to mentally arrange the tiles and plan their next move. The larger pieces in this version make it easier to see the numbers and move the pieces around.
Dominoes (with numbers and colors)
Playing time: 30mins
Dominoes is an extremely versatile game that can be played in countless ways. Because there’s a high probability your patient or loved one has played dominoes in some way or another, it’s a great choice.
For players with higher cognitive abilities, you may play traditional or train dominoes, while those with lower abilities can use them to play a matching game. No matter how the pieces are used, a great time is sure to be had.
Playing dominoes has been shown to be therapeutic and help with cognition and awareness while keeping math skills sharp and encouraging mental stimulation.
Because dominoes are so adaptable, the object of the game can be altered to best suit people at different cognitive levels. This particular version uses colorful pieces, and standard numbers instead of dots to make identifying and finding the right pieces even easier.
We hope you enjoyed our list of the best board game activities for dementia patients! These games can help those suffering from dementia by improving their cognitive function, memory, and alertness. Playing games together is also just a wonderful way to spend some time with a friend or loved one.
Have you tried any of the games on this list? Do you know of any other games that are great for dementia patients? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.
Liz has no objections to being referred to as “nerdy.” Maybe it’s the educator in her — or her maturity level— but when it comes to board games, those best suited for children are the ones that spark her interest. When she’s not looking for the next game to incorporate into the classroom or play with her niece and nephew, you can find her trying out nature-themed games like Wildcraft or Trekking the National Parks.