puzzles for dementia (1)

Dementia Puzzles: Can they help?

3 min read

If you have dementia, dementia puzzles can help to engage your brain in a stimulating activity that boosts cognitive function.

Puzzles can also be a great addition as part of the daily routine, or a fun way to spend time with family and friends of all ages.

While dementia puzzles, obviously, don’t offer a cure for dementia they have been shown to boost brain health, acting as a potential protective factor for cognitive decline.

In this blog, we’ll look at the benefits of doing dementia puzzles, including dementia jigsaw puzzles to help slow down the rate of cognitive decline.

Here’s a summary of what we’ll cover:

  • Dementia puzzles are a great way to gently engage your brain from the comfort of your own home. 
  • They can be solo or group activities, providing a nice opportunity for socialising, and can be especially good for interacting with younger members of the family. 
  • In a 2018 study into the link between cognitive health and jigsaw puzzles, researchers found that puzzles proved to be a potential protective factor for cognitive ageing. 
  • If your loved one with dementia expresses an interest in puzzles, support them to tackle puzzles independently to strengthen their cognitive abilities.
What is the link between cognitive ability and dementia

What is the link between cognitive ability and dementia?

Keeping your brain active is important for cognitive ability and wellbeing.

Getting older can increase our susceptibility to degenerative symptoms like memory loss, but we have the power to combat it.

Working the brain with stimulating activities that are both challenging and fun is a great form of cognitive exercise, just like music for dementia

While studies into this are still somewhat limited, it is generally thought that engagement in cognitively, physically, and socially demanding activities is associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline and dementia. 

Are you worried about a loved one?

Early signs of dementia free guide

Do dementia puzzles help reduce cognitive decline?

While puzzles might seem like a fun leisure activity, people who spend time doing puzzles are actually benefiting their brain. 

The problem-solving, methodical nature of completing puzzles allows people to develop their cognitive flexibility and is a great form of sensory stimulation.

This skill isn’t just limited to solving puzzles but can be applied to solving real-life issues too. 

puzzles and alzheimers

Are jigsaws good for dementia?

Remember the good old days sitting around the coffee table on a rainy afternoon completing a jigsaw with family?

Well, jigsaw puzzles have been shown to improve memory and brain function, including for those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. 

In a 2018 study for Frontiers Aging Neuroscience journal, the long-term use of jigsaw puzzles was deemed to be a ‘potential protective factor for cognitive ageing’. 

The results indicate that jigsaw puzzling strongly engages multiple cognitive abilities and long-term jigsaw puzzling experiences could relevantly benefit cognition.
Patrick Fissler (et al.)
are puzzles good for dementia

How do puzzles help the brain?

Jigsaw puzzling was found to help the brain in two important ways:

  • Specific cognitive demands of jigsaw puzzling could contribute to an increased brain reserve
  • Regulation of distressing emotions through jigsaw puzzling could prevent chronic stress states that can exert a negative impact on cognitive ageing and dementia in the long term
puzzles to keep the brain active

Dementia jigsaw puzzles

Jigsaws are some of the most accessible and engaging forms of dementia puzzles as they require the brain to work laterally on a number of cognitive functions. 

There has been some positive research into the use of jigsaw puzzles for those needing dementia care

As a result, more products have been developed as specific dementia jigsaw puzzles to cater for those with more advanced needs.

Are you worried about a loved one?

Early signs of dementia free guide

Dementia puzzles tips for carers

When supporting someone with dementia to participate in puzzle activities, you may want to consider some of these tips for carers.

Ability – Depending on what stage of their dementia journey your loved one is at, they may struggle with some regular jigsaw puzzles. 

Help them feel empowered – Supporting independence in a way that empowers your loved one can sometimes mean asking yourself a question.

In this case, you might consider, ‘Will they be able to cope with 1000 tiny puzzle pieces, or would a simpler design better suit their ability? Choose the option that is going to help them feel empowered, not you. 

Encourage independent decision-making

Unless you have chosen a puzzle as a group activity, allow your loved one to tackle the puzzle on their own.

While it might be tempting to point out answers if they’re struggling, the process of trial and error is a beneficial cognitive exercise.

Additional needs – Take the needs of the person with dementia into account when choosing a jigsaw puzzle. For example, choosing a puzzle book with enlarged content for visually impaired people. 


Find the care you need

It’s easy to find a carer who can help you or your loved one stay independent at home for longer.

Just use the Sweet Pea care matching service. All you have to do is enter your care needs and we’ll do all the hard work for you!