My mom no longer knows how to play her favorite game, and its breaking my heart.

Started by

My 85 year-old mom has dementia, and lately she no longer knows how to play her favorite game of dominoes anymore. It breaks my heart as she fumbles around, not understanding it anymore. I know that I must find things that are simpler for her to do, but this has always been her game of choice and I'm just feeling really sad right now. I guess I just had to vent. Thanks.


Yes. That is very sad. Each loss with our loved ones who have dementia is a sad event. You are wise to recognize your feelings and to allow yourself to experience the grief. And then, of course, we caregivers must buck up and go on.
My dad learned to play solitaire in his teens. He liked to play the game after supper most evenings. He developed dementia in his late 70s. He began to complain that he had a bad deck of cards and, after finding out that he had purchased his 10th pack of cards, we started noticing other changes in behavior (so minor at first), and began keeping a record of these changes. To my knowledge there is not a whole lot you can do to help your mom regain her ability to play that game again. I bought a child's "Memory" game and tried to play this game with only 6-8 pairs of matches. He couldn't grasp the concept and became very irritable. Redirection worked for me. When Dad became frustrated with "those cards not working right," I'd ask him to take a walk or talk about family stories or go for a drive, whatever was easiest and whatever he wanted to do. Introducing a new-to-Dad child's game did not work - it was too late for the memory to grasp the concepts. Try some redirection, hide the dominoes and make a big deal of trying to find them (she will eventually quit asking for them), and get out the family albums and talk about things that happened years ago. You just might catch her at a good time to learn some new family history from years past while quieting the immediate problem. Thinking of you and wishing you the best in a sad, tough situation.
It is sad. My mom was an avid bridge player, she can no longer play cards. If possible, redirect, and know we are here for you. Each step down is heartbreaking, use the support available to you.
So sorry, I know just how you feel. Three years ago my mom stopped playing her favorite game MahJong. She was a good player and had won tournament! She no longer plays any games or has interest in anything. It is truely heart breaking.
I can only agree. With my mother it was crosswords: the lady who used to have a pink fit if anyone made even the tiniest error or filled in a solution untidily, to see her tentative, spidery attempts... well it was just heart-breaking.

Would your mother get any pleasure from making patterns of the dominoes, without playing the game itself? You could do mosaics and outlines, that kind of thing. There might be some satisfaction in just handling the tiles.

Hugs to you, this sort of thing does make one absolutely want to wail.
Yes it is Heartbreaking, since this is the nature of the illness, but You kneed to keep reminding Yourself that Your beautiful Mom's brain is sick, and the por Lady can't help it. Once I realised that I was accompanying My Late Mother on Our last journey together, I set out and achieved in making so many new memories with Mam, on the great days We went for a drive along the coast, and on the days that were not so good and Mam didn't wish to get up, I lay on the bed next to Mother and I kept bringing Mam back to the most happy time of Her Life, Her Childhood. Once I got Mammy going the beautiful memories of Her youth flowed fluently like spring water from a jug. We recited Irish poetry that Mam learned going to School in the 1940's and We sang the old songs too. We had a fabulous time. Instead of concentrating on what Your Mom can not do, do those things that come easy. Keep talking about the happy times, and Lots of Love and hugs, and reassure Your Mom that She's safe and that You Love Her. These memories will last a Lifetime.
I would play Dominoes with Mom, but the Dominoes she once played are no longer to be. Play her way. She will bond with you playing with her and still play her beloved Dominoes. OK, it's not what it used to be, but you can still make it enjoyable for her. Remember, in her world, it's still her beloved game. Enjoy your time with her.

My husband also played cards from age 4. We find he is confused but knows what takes the trick so we just play along keeping him occupied for a while. Scores aren't the important thing. I found a dod to dot bk & showed him slowly how it worked & see the pic after all done & he loves doing this. Each time i have to show okay dot 1 line to dot 2 & he's off & running. He also does 100 pc jigsaw puzzles sometimes needs little help. Could do same puzzle each day & doesnt remember he'd done it before. Just be patient & think of as brain exercise whatever they can do not out to win.
My Mom too was quite the card player. So we had her sort the cards by color. She loved it and it kept her occupied. (though the piles weren't always by color. We tried to have her do suits but it was too late for that. Do the dominoes and let her make up her own rules.
Well liverlips, your mother will continue to lose the ability to do much of anything and you need to prepare yourself for the inevitable. One thing I did was go to the Dollar Tree store and go to the children's book section and find the cards with pictures of items and see how many she can recall. There are also number cards, etc. My husband was excellent at math and physics and cannot subtract 2 from 4 now. The decline will continue and your mother will be able to do some things and not others. Find out what she can still do. Yes, it is very sad to have to watch your loved one decline, and this is a horrible disease. Soon she will no longer be interested in dominos, but you need to start allowing her to do what she can do and throw out all the "rules". For dementia patients, there are no rules. There is only what their brain can think of at that moment. Just be there for her now and until she passes so you will have good memories. Best wishes!

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support