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Celebrate National Puzzle Day

Posted by on 1/28/2016 to Dementia Activities

Today is National Puzzle Day!  This day celebrates puzzles of all kinds. Did you know the first jigsaw puzzle was created in 1760? Wow!

MindStart Puzzles for Patients with Alzheimer's

The story of MindStart puzzles, starts 6 years ago with Louise, who I was seeing in occupational therapy (OT) for difficulties due to her Alzheimer's disease.  Louise used to do up to 500 piece puzzles, but now her 100 piece puzzle sat on her table, untouched.  When I had her try a few pieces, it was clear that the puzzle was much too complicated and frustrating for her.  But I knew giving up on puzzle setting was not ideal, as it was a pastime that Louis really enjoyed and one that was a good brain exercise for her. A trial of my 5 year old daughter's 24 piece puzzle could be done with minimal help, so it was the right level of difficulty.  However, the cartoon image on the puzzle was not ideal.

So I took it upon myself to create a new kind of puzzle.  My first prototype was also 24 pieces, with a beautiful, outdoor scene of wildflowers against the brilliant blue of the lake and sky behind.  Less pieces and adult-oriented. However, as I watched Louise attempt this new puzzle, with my OT skills analyzing the activity 'demands' against her ability level,  I soon realized that my design had a flaw.

The scenery of the flower and lake were beautiful, but so detailed that it was hard to know which pieces went together. I also noticed that Louise had lost her ability to look at the 'big picture', so she did not refer to the box picture to help guide her and did not distinguish between edge/corner pieces and inside pieces.  Instead, she picked 2 pieces and tried to make them fit - most often without success.  The puzzle was much more frustrating for her than I had intended.

So a new puzzle design was created. The result is our current 63, 24, and 12 piece MindStart puzzles that are:
  • Adult-oriented, with themes of everyday life, such as Gardening and Fishing.
  • Adapted in design (24 and 12 piece), so that there are separate items in the puzzle, of distinct color and shape.  This gives the person clues of how the pieces will come together, as the video below shows.
  • Graded - meaning that you can start with the 63 piece, then later the 24 piece, and then 12 piece, if needed.

When a traditional puzzle becomes too difficult for the person with Alzheimer's, move to the MindStart puzzle series:

Isn't the MindStart difference obvious when you see these two 24 piece puzzles?  MindStart puzzles are the perfect fit for people with Alzheimer's and other types of dementia.


Author note: Patient name was changed to protect identity.   

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