I love matching activities for people living with dementia; you can use things you have around the house or be more creative if you have the time (and means), and you can tailor them to an individuals interests. As with many of my activity ideas, matching tasks are good for someone who's dementia is at a stage when they are finding it difficult to fill their time and would rather sit and do nothing rather than try to complete tasks they might have once found satisfying and fullfilling. Tasks such as these can be a relatively easy way to provide distraction and be a meaningful way to keep the brain active and mind occupied.
Why do matching activities work?
- I'm no academic but, from what I have seen in practice, matching games can be a good way to engage someone who is looking for some brain stutimulation but who's abilities have declined such that they can't manage more complex challenges.
- Matching activities are by design done by an individual rather than group and so they remove any anxieties about "getting it right" in front of others, or indeed can be done in your home with minimal support.
- As I suggested above matching activites can be entirely personalised. Making sure an activity holds some interest for the person rather than being a meaningless task can help to improve their levels of engagement, maybe also promoting conversation alongside the activity.
You can use things around the house
Matching socks, finding the right lid for each bottle, sorting cutlery into a cutlery tray. All these things can be found in your own home. If you are finding it difficult to persuade the person living with dementia to begin the task I might suggest it is a job that needs to be done and that it "would be a great help if you would sort these things out for me".
You can be creative
A great way to personalise a matching task is to use a topic of interest for the indivudal. For example one of the ladies I have worked with loved butterflies. I had discovered this whilst looking though a wildlife magazine with her one day. Using that knowledge I was able to make her a butterfly matching game as you see here.
I have also made a more complex spot matching game; this involved not just matching one colour but three. I had been worried that it was too complicated but with some guidance and support it was achievable by some of my clients, and those that did finish it had a great sense of achievement afterwards!
I made the butterfly and spot games on the computer, putting photos or shapes into a Word document, printing them and laminating. But don't let that put you off making one yourself, you could also make games using pictures cut out from magazines, or even drawing shapes onto paper.
This key matching game is made from a selection of keys kindly donated from a key cutting shop and drawing round them on a sheet of paper.
I have included PDF printables of the spot game below, so feel free to make one yourself and give it a go. Let me know how it works.
Match object to photos; take photos of small objects around the house (e.g. a button, cotton reel, wooden spoon, golf ball etc) and then print them out. Keep the objects and photos together and ask the person to put the correct item with it's photograph.
Match halves of playing cards; cut a pack of playing cards in half and ask the person to put the halfs side by side again. Depending on their abilities it may be an idea to only present a small collection of cards - the entire 52 card pack might be too overwhelming!
Match fabric scraps; if sewing is of interest and you can lay your hands on some scraps of fabric you can cut the scraps into two pieces and ask the person to find the matching piece.
Colour matching; paint colour samples are freely available at DIY stores. If you can get hold of some pegs too you can easily make a colour matching game.
I am interested to hear your feedback on my ideas and also if they have worked for you, so please do comment below.
Game Set Match.
Printable spot game PDF