Highlights » ParentCare » Vol. 30

Making Senior “Back-to-School Backpacks” to Keep Elderly Active and Sharp

By Regina Allen

parentcare-feature1This back-to-school season, families scrambled to prepare their children for a return to the classroom ~ and the return to school is usually followed by a couple of stressful months of kids re- acclimating to schedules, homework, etc. The number of children who live with a grandparent has increased 64% over the past two decades ~ so it’s no great surprise that during these busy times, seniors may get left out of the hustle and bustle that a new school year brings ~ leaving them feeling lonely, isolated and mentally stagnant.

So, while Mom and Dad may have already filled their child’s backpack full of pencils and other school supplies, they may have forgotten to stuff one very important backpack ~ that of their aging parent(s). According to the Mayo Clinic, seniors who engage in cognitive activities, play games or participate in crafts have a 30-50% decrease in memory loss compared to those who did not participate in these activities. In fact, studies show that even the “diseased brain” has the ability to make new neurological connections when kept active.

“Families become so busy they can forget to include their elderly loved ones in all the activities. Studies show that without stimulating activity, seniors can lose memory, feel depressed and isolated and have a higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” says Peter Ross, CEO and co-founder of Senior Helpers, an in-home senior care company with a local office of highly trained caregivers specializing in dementia and Alzheimer’s care. “That’s why these Senior “Back-to-School Backpacks” are a fun, easy way to keep the elderly engaged. If you can’t be there to join your elderly loved one in these activities, hire a caregiver who can take the load off you.”

That’s why Senior Helpers, one of the largest in-home senior care companies, is helping families create Senior “Back-to-School Backpacks” to keep elderly loved ones’ memories sharp and their minds engaged.

Below are specific games from which all seniors can benefit, including those suffering from the most feared disease among the elderly: Alzheimer’s.

Experts suggest activities must not only be fun but also give seniors a sense of accomplishment

• Hand-held computer games (such as Connect Four or Scrabble)
• Books, magazines or crossword puzzles
• Do-It-Yourself birdhouse kit
• Fake flowers to arrange
• Deck of cards
• Etch-a-sketch (draw or play games such as Hang Man, Tic-Tac-Toe, etc.)
• Paint by numbers (model cars or other objects)
• Gardening seeds

Research shows seniors should play these games for stimulation, not for competition, and should be enjoyed by a group of two or three. Whenever possible, experts suggest children (or a caregiver) play with the older adults.

Recommended games include:

Bingo ~ Studies show this game is highly therapeutic for those with cognitive disorders. People in the study performed slightly better on cognitive tests and showed an increase in alertness and awareness hours after testing (American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementia).

Smart Brain ~ This game provides stimulation to cognitive facilities like attention and memory (Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry). The study shows this game improved cognition in a group of elderly people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Nintendo’s, Brain Age ~ originally intended to improve the working of the healthy brain but it’s also effective therapy for those with dementia.

Qwirkle ~ it can be played in many ways and by people at different stages of Alzheimer’s. People in early stages can play by the rules or as a game of strategy. Later it can be used for color and pattern matching.

Board games, such as Monopoly ~ board games with a colorful playing surface and objects that can be handled (such as dice, money, cards, etc.) are preferred.

“Games at all levels ~ low tech to high tech ~ can help dementia patients,” says Ross. “The Senior “Back-to-School Backpack” is one initiative in our dementia and Alzheimer’s program called our Senior Gems Program. We stress seniors should decide which games they want to play, whether they’re games they played as a child or games they played with their own children. This stimulates familiar memories which keep the brain sharp.”

Sources: Mayo Clinic (2009 study), Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, Best Alzheimer’s Products, Dementia Today

To learn more about how to care for your senior loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s through the Senior Helpers’ Senior Gems Program, please visit our website at www.seniorhelpers.com. There, you can also request a complimentary Senior Gems DVD.

About Senior Gems

Senior Gems is a revolutionary program to help family members and professional caregivers properly care for their aging loved ones through each stage of dementia. Teepa Snow began developing her Gem Levels in 2006. In 2011, the Senior Gem program was created with her guidance and assistance. This program puts Senior Helpers at the forefront of individual and in-home dementia-specialized caregiving as they offer all of their in-home companions and caregivers the opportunity to become dementia care certified through the training program.

About Senior Helpers

Senior Helpers connects professional caregivers with seniors who wish to live at home as opposed to a nursing or assisted living facility. The company has nearly 300 franchises in 40 states and one Canadian province offering a wide range of personal and companion care services to assist seniors living independently with a strong focus on quality of life for the client and peace of mind for their families. Senior Helpers strives to be the leading companion and personal care provider that offers dependable, consistent and affordable home care. For more information, please visit: www.seniorhelpers.com.

Special thanks to Stacey Hilton

Comments are closed.