Matching Activities are one kind of cognitive exercise you can do with your loved one.

Title of blog post Dementia Brain Games Matching Activities

I’m sure by now, that most of you know what happens to people when they have dementia or mild cognitive impairment.

It’s characterized by forgetfulness and memory loss. You may see poor judgment in the person wearing inappropriate clothing for the current season. They may show mood shifts, difficulty following conversations and maintaining an attention span. The list goes on.

As a caregiver, you want to maintain the cognitive abilities of your loved one and help keep those skills from deteriorating further.

One of the ways you can do this is by using matching activities. I have a whole section of matching sets in my Etsy store – DementiaHelpingHand.

What is a matching activity

A matching activity means that you are having someone find 2 (or more) objects that are the same. 

Challenges caregivers face in implementing matching activities

  1. Resistance to New Activities. You may encounter some resistance when you introduce a new game/activity, especially if they are unfamiliar or confusing. The person may not understand what to do or may experience some discomfort playing the game.

  2. Difficulty in Communicating Directions. The person with dementia just may not understand what to do, especially if it is a complex task.

  3. Limited Attention Span. Individuals may only sustain interest in a game for a certain amount of time.

  4. Frustration and Agitation. The more the individual struggles, the higher the risk of frustration and agitation.

  5. Lack of Initiative. Caregivers may need to be the one that initiates play and remains to guide the play or the activity.

  6. Changes in Interests and Preferences. Caregivers need to be aware of changes in the interests and the preferences of the person with dementia.

  7. Difficulty in recognizing objects. As people progress in their dementia journey the ability to recognize objects and differentiate between objects decreases.

  8. Emotional Sensitivity. The feelings of anger, frustration, confusion and agitation may increase during the activity.

  9. Physical Limitations. The person playing the game may have physical limitations that make manipulating small or smaller objects difficult.

  10. Personalization Challenges. Everyone has likes and dislikes. Having someone play a game involving a topic they have no interest in is challenging.

why matching activities are difficult for people with dementia

  1. Short term memory loss makes it challenging to remember locations of objects or pairs in an activity.

  2. People with dementia may struggle to maintain focus and attention in order to concentrate on the location of items.

  3. Dementia affects the visual perception of some people making it hard to tell the differences between objects.

  4. Abstract thinking becomes more difficult.

  5. Cognitive processing slows down and becomes more difficult.

  6. If language is affected, people may have difficulty expressing thoughts or understanding directions.

  7. Frustration and anxiety may rear their ugly heads.

Benefits of matching activities for individuals with dementia

  1. Cognitive Stimulation. Matching games involve memory, attention and problem solving. The process of identifying and remembering pairs of objects stimulates the brain and helps with promoting mental agility and maintaining cognitive abilities.

  2. Memory Enhancement. Matching requires players to remember the locations of pairs. Regular play can help maintain cognitive skills.

  3. Sensory Stimulation. Sensory experiences will be enhanced due to both visual and tactile stimulation by picking something up, touching it, feeling it, looking at it and noticing the appearance.

  4. Emotional Well-being. There is a sense of satisfaction when you find a pair that matches. Those positive emotions alleviate stress and anxiety.

  5. Social Interaction. A table game like this encourages conversation among residents.

  6. Visual Discrimination. The act of noticing the differences between objects works on their visual perception and discrimination skills. 

  7. Motor Skills Enhancement. Just as with young children, the act of reaching, picking up an object and turning it over helps maintain eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills.

  8. Reduction of Agitation and Restlessness. The focus required during the activity helps reduce the negative emotions.

  9. Promotion of Independence. This type of an activity gives the person the opportunity to make decisions and complete tasks independently.

  10. Enhanced Focus and Attention. Concentration is required to identify matching pairs and that concentration  promotes increased focus and attention.

solutions and tips for overcoming these challenges

As a caregiver you may encounter resistance from individuals with dementia if they perceive an activity as too simplistic or “babyish.”

Dementia can affect a person’s sense of identity and independence, and engaging in activities that may be perceived as too basic or childlike can lead to feelings of frustration, embarrassment, or a sense of being patronized.

Be mindful of the following factors:

  1. Maintaining Dignity and Autonomy.  If an activity feels condescending (too easy??) or inappropriate for their cognitive abilities, they may resist participating.

  2. Align Activities to Their Interests. Like most people, people with dementia like an activity that provides a sense of purpose and engagement. Choosing activities that align with their interests, preferences, and past experiences can help overcome resistance.

  3. Adapting Activities to Cognitive Abilities. You need to tread a fine line here. Find an activity that is appropriately challenging but not overly simplistic for the person.

  4. Incorporating Familiar Elements. Come up with or provide the person activities that incorporate familiar themes, objects or experiences. The person will be more likely to be interested and even if simple, may still participate.

  5. Offering Choices. Choices and options empower people to make decisions about what they want to do. This may help reduce resistance.

  6. Being Mindful of Communication Styles. Communicate respectfully and don’t be patronizing. Be clear and positive.

  7. Assessing Individual Preferences. Know your person. Personalizing activities is important.

One reason why a set of matching cards is good to use with people who have dementia is that you can tailor the set to the person. Like the set above with the old cars. You decide how many cards your loved one can handle without getting agitated.

Some sets in my shop have cards that have some detail as well as others with more detail making it harder to find the pairs.

These below are the harder sets –

Additional Ways to use matching cards

Suggested Uses  (printing 2 sets of each page)

  • Match the pairs

  • Go Fish – where you ask the opposing player for a card to match the one in your hand

  • Take a set of cards and cut them in half vertically, laminate if preferred, then have your loved one match the 2 halves

  • You can use the cards to talk to your loved one – ask them about the card, what each object is, or what it is used for

  • Have your loved one group the cards together (sorting) – such as hose, watering can; all flowers; tools; seed packets, signs and twine

So when you need a quick activity for your loved one to do, pull out a set of cards to match.

I have plans to add more sets of matching cards in the future so if you don’t find something that might appeal to your loved one, then check back.

You might also like –

Dementia Brain Games – Hangman