easy card games for dementia
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Easy card games for dementia: 4 of the best

5 min read |

Easy card games for dementia can be a great way to get your loved one involved in conversation and reduce their anxiety.

Traditional card games with complicated rules may not be appropriate for someone experiencing cognitive decline and other dementia symptoms.

However there are many adapted card games suitable for people living with dementia to play with friends, family or carers.

This article will cover four easy card games for dementia that will soon become family favourites.

Here’s a summary of what we’ll cover:

  • Easy card games are a great way to get your loved one mentally engaged or involved in a social situation, even with memory loss. 
  • There are lots of easy card games for dementia to try, from Snap to Old Maid and Go Fish. 
  • Depending on your loved ones abilities, card games for dementia can be adapted using different card decks or simplified rules. 
  • Remember to be kind and empathetic when playing card games with your loved one with dementia to avoid causing agitation.
Why choose easy card games for dementia

Why choose easy card games for dementia?

There are many reasons to choose easy card games for dementia as an activity for your loved one. 

Whether playing with you (or others) or on an online device, card games can provide a quick and easy distraction. 

They are also a great opportunity to keep your brain active as you age

Even if your loved one is already experiencing cognitive decline, easy card games for dementia can help them engage their brain.

Are you worried about a loved one?

Early signs of dementia free guide

How can card games help dementia

There are lots of benefits to playing card games for people living with dementia 

Much like dementia puzzles, easy card games are one way to sharpen cognitive functions like memory capability and focus.

They can also reduce stress and are an excellent opportunity to connect with loved ones and enjoy time together.

Card games, as long as they aren’t too difficult, can also help reduce anxiety and agitation that your loved one may experience.

What are the benefits of card games for dementia

What are the benefits of card games for dementia?

There are lots of benefits to easy card games for dementia, which we’ll explore in more detail in this section. 

Find more information about the topic ‘what is dementia?’ here

You can also read about Wendy Mitchell’s brilliant best-selling book ‘What I wish people knew about dementia’ to learn about her experience. 

Boost mood

Easy card games for dementia are a certified mood booster, as focusing on the game can reduce feelings of agitation. 

This can be helpful if your loved one is agitated by certain thoughts or events that are leading them to feel depressed. 

Or if they are displaying symptoms of dementia sundowning, for example, and need some routine to get them settled.

How can easy card games help dementia

Improve focus and comprehension

For people experiencing memory issues, a card game may seem like a daunting task. 

However, research shows that easy card games for dementia actually boost cognitive activity that may help ward off symptoms. 

Card games can be used in a variety of ways to practise skills from recalling information, recognising matches and following rules. 

Supports social skills

Whether playing at home with a caregiver or with peers at a day centre, a card game is a great way to connect. 

Having a friendly chat, maintaining friendships and even making new friends as an older person is really important. 

This is because social connection can help reduce your loved one’s risk of isolation or help them cope with loneliness.

what are easy card games for dementia

Encourages hand-eye coordination practice

As you would expect, there are some movements used while playing cards that require a healthy dose of hand-eye coordination. 

When playing cards, you need hand-eye coordination to place cards correctly and at just the right moment. 

Plus, shuffling and holding cards helps exercise the muscles in your hand which can be a good exercise for arthritis and dexterity. 

You can adapt any card games to your loved ones needs, reducing pace for example, to help them adjust or gain confidence. 

Are you worried about a loved one?

Early signs of dementia free guide

Snap

Objective: Collect all the cards to be the winner

Players: 2

Rules and play

A shuffled deck of cards is split between two players who continually place cards (facing up) into the centre. 

If the design or value of the cards is the same, shout ‘SNAP’ and grab the discarded cards. 

The first person to shout ‘SNAP’ takes the cards and the person who collects all the cards. 

How does it help dementia?

Snap is a great easy card game for elderly people with dementia as its rules are simple and the game itself is quick. 

Plus there’s lots of fun adaptations that can be made for different needs such as using cards with images in one theme.

fun easy card games for dementia

Go Fish

Objective:  Pairing cards together in your hand and being the first player to use all their cards through getting the most four-of-a-kind matches. 

Players: 2 or more

Rules and play

  • Deal 5 cards to each player
  • Look at your cards but don’t show them to any other players
  • Pick someone to go first and proceed clockwise
  • Ask another player for any card rank, eg. Do you have any threes?
  • If they have it, they must give you all the cards matching the rank and you take another turn.
  • If they don’t have any they say ‘go fish’ and you take from the top card from the deck.
  • If the card you take matches the rank you asked for, show the players and continue your turn. If not, end your turn.

How to win

When a player gets 4 cards of the same rank they remove them from their hand and place them together in front. 

When they run out they must draw 5 new cards from the deck until the deck is finished. 

Once all the cards have been used, count the number of four-of-a-kind matches in front of each player and award 1 point for each. 

The player with the most four-of-a-kind matches wins.

How does it help dementia?

Go Fish is an easy card game for people with dementia as it requires simple matching by numbers.

It also encourages conversation and a bit of counting at the end!

It can be played in a pair or with a group, so it can be a fun family activity.

card games for people with dementia

War

Objective: The first player to collect all the cards in the deck wins through putting down higher ranking cards.

Players: 2

Rules and play

  • Shuffle and deal all the cards in the deck between the two players.
  • Players take cards from their pile and put them face up in front of them at the same time. Whoever puts down the highest ranking cards collects both cards and puts it into their personal discard pile. 
  • Joker is the highest rank and two is the lowest – but if you flip cards of the same rank this is called a War. 
  • Proceed by each laying 3 cards face down, while playing the fourth one to the highest rank – the player with the highest ranking card collects all the cards. 
  • If a player doesn’t have 3 cards then they lose the War. 

How to win

Win the War by putting down higher ranking cards than the other player and collecting the cards. 

If you keep putting down cards of matching rank, repeat the process of War until a higher ranking card wins. 

How does it help dementia?

Playing War helps your loved one sharpen their reflexes and simple counting skills.

This two player game encourages just the right amount of competition and can fill any moment with your loved one. 

different card games for elderly people

Old Maid

Objective: Players try to avoid being stuck with the Old Maid, or the unpaired card in the deck, which is usually a queen.  

Players: 2 or more 

Rules and play

If using a standard deck, remove 3 queens as the 1 queen left will be used as the Old Maid. 

Deal the cards evenly between players, and then if using a standard deck, you should match the cards by rank. 

For example, two sixes would make a pair, regardless of their colours.

Players fan their cards out face down with the hope of enticing players to take the old maid card. 

How to win

Once all the pairs have been made, make sure you’re not left with the old maid (or odd card) at the end!

How does it help dementia?

Old Maid is a good game for people living with dementia as it encourages gentle competition while practising recognising matches. 

Dementia friendly cards

A traditional deck of playing cards with all the suits may get a bit complicated for people living with dementia. 

As would any type of intricate design with lots of elements or small lettering. 

For people with dementia, adapted decks of cards are available that use simpler card faces with bright colours and bold designs. 

Also available are cards for games such as snap that relate to a certain theme, rather than using rank or suits.

how to play easy card games

What to avoid in card games for dementia?

People living with dementia are more prone to confusion, so it’s important to find or adapt games that fit your loved ones needs. 

To help your loved one enjoy themselves and reduce potential agitation, avoid these factors when planning easy card games for dementia. 

  • Games that involve lying and misdirection eg. Poker 
  • Complicated rules or explanations
  • Outpacing your loved one when they are trying to talk to play a card. Find out more about what does outpacing mean in dementia here 
  • Noisy or distracting environments where hearing and concentration are impaired 
  • Not giving your loved one a chance to succeed at the game

Are you worried about a loved one?

Early signs of dementia free guide

Help your loved one live independently at home

Help your loved one live independently at home

Having care needs that make every day living a bit harder in old age doesn’t mean your loved one can’t stay living at home. 

With the help of the Sweet Pea app, you can source quality home care for your loved one, whatever their level of needs. 

When you upload their details into the app, you’ll have a network of trusted care providers at your fingertips, ready to make sure your loved one gets the support they need.

Click below to get started.