Through categorisation, patterns, sequences and association, simple games are created – and introduced through several programmes in local hospitals – to help elder patients to remember better and improve their cognitive skills. However, it is crucial to understand that these games are not used to cure dementia; rather, to give brain power a little boost and to delay memory deterioration. 

Initiatives undertaken by Singapore hospitals to help patients with dementia

Dementia is a clinical syndrome encompassing a range of organic brain diseases that result in progressive deterioration of memory, cognitive functions and behaviour. These symptoms not only interfere with a person's ability to perceive and interpret their surroundings, but also compromise an individual's functional capacity in all aspects of living. Thus, elder patients with dementia may tend to allow their caregivers to help them with daily tasks, which may worsen their conditions. (Dementia becomes worse when there’s brain disuse.)

At Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH), Associate Professor Philip Yap, also the senior consultant and director of KTPH’s geriatric centre, and nurse and dementia programme specialist Ms Chionh Hui Ling shared that these little game sessions among elderly patients with dementia kickstarted in 2006 – through purposeful, organised daycare programmes.

On the other hand, Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH) also holds similar game sessions for dementia patients. Through a collaboration with three students from Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) School of Art, Design and Media, elderly patients can now enjoy having some fun with games like “Jiak Ba Buay” and “Tangram Zoo” – aimed to jog patients’ memories.

A myriad of games featuring witty names, attractive visuals and texture to give a boost to the brain power among our elderly patients. Photo credit: Chew Seng Kim, Sue-Ann Tan, Gin Tay/The Straits Times
A myriad of games featuring witty names, attractive visuals and texture to give a boost to the brain power among our elderly patients. Photo credit: Chew Seng Kim, Sue-Ann Tan, Gin Tay/The Straits Times

Keeping elderly patients engaged; slowing down dementia progress

Simple games engage elders’ visual aspects, as well as senses of touch, smell and hearing, which help in improving their memories. “Gaming typically involves the whole person in body, mind and emotion – thus, providing an opportunity for the person to be totally engaged,” expressed Prof Yap.

The collaboration was part of a 10-month project of the NTU students. According to Assistant Professor Michael Tan Koon Boon, who led the project, “It is about creating a new sphere for design, where students think about the social value of their projects… They see how the patients respond to their work and this gives them a real sense of how their ideas can take off."

In Singapore, one in 10 people aged 60 and above is likely to have dementia. Therefore, fighting dementia requires a constant and dedicated effort. Brain-training exercises (in the form of light games) may help in slowing down mental decline between 33% to 48%, according to the National Institutes of Health in the United States.

Texture, visual, sense: A myriad of games stimulating creativity

Games like “Matchlink” requires players to identify the textures in 24 boxes and group them according to the texture, colours or numbers. Photo credit: Michael Tan Koon Boon
Games like “Matchlink” requires players to identify the textures in 24 boxes and group them according to the texture, colours or numbers. Photo credit: Michael Tan Koon Boon

Games like “Matchlink” requires players to identify the textures in 24 boxes and group them according to the texture, colours or numbers. This stimulates the players’ cognition. “Jiak Ba Buay” requires players to create their own “food recipes” by matching “food ingredients” magnets. This game engages patients’ senses and stimulates social interaction as they share their personal experiences with the foods.

There are also “See Shape”, a puzzle with coloured blocks for construction based on instructions given, to train patients’ visual-spatial and problem-solving skills. “See Me” is a set of pictorial cards to be arranged in categories, that trains patients’ memory, as “Tangram Zoo”, a puzzle with geometric wooden blocks to put together as Chinese Zodiac characters, aims to stimulate patients’ creativity thinking skills.

Activity books are also used to help elder patients with dementia. Such activity books include connect-the-dots exercises, crossword puzzles, or spot-the-difference challenges. Patients are encouraged to play and interact with each other through peer support and the game activities, which enhance their socialising skills.

The game activities are typically suited to elder patients based on their conditions, especially their levels (mild or moderate) of dementia. Additionally, the difficulty levels of the games involved are also chosen to match the patients’ abilities. For instance, for patients with mild cognitive impairment as a precursor to dementia, they may experience a slight memory decline. Thus, their games are more complex than patients with higher levels of dementia. Furthermore, in accordance to patients’ abilities, they can be grouped to compete equally. MIMS

Read more:
Fostering dementia-friendly community: Singapore unveils first 24/7 facility in Yishun
3 ways healthcare professionals can halt the onset of digital dementia
Australia’s first state-of-the-art “dementia village” expected to kickstart in 2018

Sources:
http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/games-help-patients-not-to-forget-to-remember
http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/creating-fun-and-games-to-stir-up-memories
http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/back-to-fun-and-games-to-keep-dementia-at-bay
http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/default/files/attachments/2017/10/10/ST_20171010_SAGAMESZ_3477464.pdf