Sunday 7 August 2016

Jigsaw Puzzles - Another Creative Therapy for those with Alzheimer's

Creating a picture with puzzle is another form of Art Therapy. 
Jigsaw puzzles are a therapeutic activity that has been proved to stimulate memory and improve brain function in people with dementia.
Puzzles exercise the brain as they stimulate both the left side, which is concerned with logic and sequence, and the right side, which serves for creative, intuitive and emotive thought.  

When piecing the parts together, the brain is working continuously in an intensive way which helps to exercise the brain cells and increase their efficiency.
The act of problem solving involves a huge range of skills such as:
  • Analysis – working out how pieces fit back together
  • Attention to detail – identifying small detail in the pieces
  • Categorising – arranging pieces into similar colours that go together
  • Comparison – identifying which pieces will/won’t fit into the same space
  • Comprehension – understanding the whole picture while working on a section
  • Concentration – focusing on the shapes/sizes etc 
  • Creativity – finding different ways to assess if the piece is correct
  • Eye/hand Coordination – using fine motor control to manipulate the pieces
  • Flexibility – the ability to switch to different areas when needed
  • Memory Retention – remembering where a piece won’t fit
  • Patience – keeping focused for long periods without giving up
  • Prioritising – deciding which area to do first
  • Problem-solving – finding answers to each area of difficulty
  • Reasoning – justifying your choices
  • Reviewing – taking stock of progress at various stages

Most of these cognitive skills can be affected in a detrimental way with the onset of a dementia such as Alzheimer’s. Studies have shown that by regularly stimulating the brain with puzzles such as jigsaws, the brain's neurotransmitters are kept healthy and the natural ageing processes are slowed down.
Jigsaw puzzles are a great activity as they require no pre-planning - I make sure we have a puzzle on the table every day so my mum can work at it whenever she feels like it. We enjoy working on puzzles together but this is an activity that she is also happy to do on her own.
Puzzles are inexpensive if purchased from secondhand shops (charity shops) or 'used' from e-bay. 
We have around 30 puzzles now that we constantly rotate.It is important to choose the number of pieces the puzzle consists of carefully. A puzzle should not be too easy, nor should it be too hard. 
Puzzles need to provide a worthy challenge - if they are too easy and solved quickly they can be disappointing. However, puzzles that are too hard are discouraging; this is especially true for someone who is struggling with the effects of a cognitive disorder such as Alzheimer's.
My mum was able to work on 500 pc puzzles up until last year, but she now finds 200 - 300 pc puzzles more enjoyable and anything more than that frustrates and upsets her.
There are puzzles from dementia shops online from 10 pcs + with a wide variety of pictures to choose from.
They are usually brightly coloured to visually stimulate and often of animals, flowers and scenes so they don't look like children's puzzles which I believe is very important.

My mum has always loved a challenge! 
Never to be beaten by anything she sometimes cuts the jigsaw pieces to fit :)
Then she realises they are meant for somewhere else 
... so our puzzles have lots of gaps :)

I'm very proud of her for doing this ... she has always taught me if you try hard enough, you can find a way around any problem!
As well as Mixed Dementia, my mum has osteoporosis 
and she suffers from neck pain which can be made worse by her crafts & bending over her puzzles. 
I have recently bought her a desk top easel and have glued down non slip matting to a cork board.
This works really well, my mum is now able to work on her puzzles without hurting her neck!! 

Jigsaw Puzzles offer my mum gentle, enjoyable stimulation - and there's nothing quite like that feeling of placing the last piece of the puzzle ... 

… such a wonderful achievement!!

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