How Memory Jigsaws Can Help Someone with Dementia or Alzheimer’sGuest article by Patricia Lehman from adaptApuzzle My mother in law Maureen has no idea what she has done ...
– Guest article by Patricia Lehman from adaptApuzzle
My mother in law Maureen has no idea what she has done today. Most days she sits in her armchair with a blank look on her face. She is no longer angry and frustrated at her lack of memory.
She goes to a day care centre two days a week where she gets her hair done and does activities. At home we struggled to keep her engaged. We bought a large jigsaw that my husband thought they could do together, but she showed no interest in it.
He asked me to get a simpler one, but all I could find were children’s jigsaws with cartoons or TV or sports personalities on them. Her hands had lost their finer motor movements so many other occupations proved useless for her.
A Simple Solution
We have found a solution, one that works for Maureen for the time being.
I couldn’t find suitable jigsaws so I decided to make my own. I decided to manufacture jigsaws to occupy her and other people with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Last Christmas I took some of Maureen’s favourite photos from the past, her wedding day, photographs of her children etc. and I made them into jigsaws for her.
How was this done?
After much research I purchased a jigsaw machine and six jigsaw cuts from Korea. Some of these cuts were specially designed for me as I wanted to be able to make compact jigsaw with large pieces. Now I was able to make adult jigsaw with as little as 8 pieces in them.
Last Christmas my daughter, Oonagh, sat down with Maureen and they started looking at the jigsaws. Maureen was intrigued. She recognised the pictures. My daughter, who is a psychiatric nurse, took the picture apart before her grandmother’s eyes. Then together they started making up the simple jigsaw.
Oonagh isolated the different people in the jigsaw and, although Maureen frequently says she is an only child, she was able to recognise her sister and began telling stories about her. She also spoke in detail about her wedding cake and how she had made it. This was something we never knew, though we knew she had been an expert in the kitchen.
Maureen was very happy to be the centre of attention regaling us with her stories. Her attention span was very limited but as we had a number of small jigsaws it meant we didn’t hear the same story over and over again.
How to use the jigsaws?
- Get a photograph made into a jigsaw. As people with dementia prefer talking about the past, pick a photograph that has meaning to them.
- Try cueing the person into the topic of the picture and what the picture is conveying.
- As you make the jigsaw together, isolate certain people and gently prompt them to talk about that person. If you are lucky you may hear stories you have never heard before.
Making a jigsaw gives the person with dementia and their visitors something to do and something to talk about. It also gives the carers in nursing homes or hospitals greater insight into the lives of the person they are looking after and helps in the forming of a relationship.
However it is important to remember that the jigsaw must be within the capacity of the person with dementia, so it is not seen as a challenge but more as an enjoyable activity.
Jigsaws were around before televisions, so making them is something most of us know instinctively; something from the past, bringing memories and colour to the present.
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