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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.

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It is really hard to watch their abilities decline but then you will have a moment when they want you to play a game and I stop whatever I am doing to play. Mom was a great game player and we played sequence a million times but one day I got it out and she didn't remember ever playing it. The next day it was on the counter and she said oh I remember playing this, can we play and I sat with her and we played. Enjoy the moment!
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Make sure you put names on back of people in the picture & yr if can recall
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I'm going to try something tomorrow, I have some stacks loose photographs in various spots in my office and a few empty photo albums that I picked up at Dollar General, I'll ask her if she could please put them in the album for me.

She also has a ton of pictures loose in some drawers, if she does the favor for me, perhaps I can get albums for the others as well.

Wish me luck!

As to TV, my daughter and I love a long running TV series, so we bought it on DVD, all 12 seasons. My mother now knows all the characters, so the caretaker during the day just plays them in sequence and then at the end, starts back at the beginning. She also likes the Andy Griffith show, which we watch a lot, and I tape Jeopardy so we can watch that during dinner, and don't have to wait for the regular time slot.
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One thing I would add to this: when my sweet daddy began to seriously have problems with his Parkinson's, some well meaning therapist brought little board puzzles ( the kind a 1 year old would play with, handles on the pieces) and gave them to daddy to "keep his skills up". Well, that was beyond humiliating for a man whose mind was still there--but whose body was slowly dying. One day I was there and he had these puzzles out and he sat there, trying to be a good patient, but unable to fit the little cow into the cow shaped hole. Tears streaming down his face. I took the puzzles away and said "To he$$ with them, right dad? Let's watch the Nat'l Geographic station". To my knowledge, the puzzles never returned. For a person who is aware of their decline, and in my daddy's case, a brilliant mind knew it---that's just adding insult to injury. IF your loved one enjoys small and simple tasks that distract them from what they can no longer do, please go ahead. But don't insult the person living inside that tired, sick, broken body. I could sit for hours and hold daddy's hand and watch TV with him. In the end, he had his dignity.
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I'm so thankful for all of your replies and suggestions! She doesn't even remember how to play tic-tac-toe anymore! I was shocked when I realized this, but its totally a new thing for me to wrap my mind around.... Mom has pretty much given up on her favorite crosswords, too. She was looking at the answers all the time and couldn't find them on her own. I empathize with the person who says that there are still things that she suggests to her parent, that the parent still feels are "beneath her," or are too childish. I'm at that point now. So the games and activities that would actually be perfect for her right now are the ones she won't accept. That's okay (but boy, am I glad that I only downloaded a free coloring page off of the internet, and hadn't spent about ten bucks for a whole book!). Once she noticed that she couldn't remember how to play her favorite games, she stopped asking to play. I could immediately see the shock, discouragement, and sadness in her eyes as she tried to add all the dots on a domino and try to find one that had twelve dots on one side. I was wondering why she wasn't playing any of her tiles, and it was because she was either adding or multiplying the numbers on a tile, which made it impossible for a match. She tells me now that she can't keep up with the captions on tv, unless they're really slow. I wish I could find a "slow talking" channel. I DID find one thing that works, but movies like this are tough to find: I bought the old classic "The Miracle Worker" (Anne Bancroft, Patty Duke), and we watched it together. Not much talking, but lots of action that she could follow. I always have to describe what's happening on tv to her, these days. We watched another favorite -- "Splendor in the Grass," but there was a great deal of talking, so I pretty much explained what was going on, from start to finish. I have to do that with all programs. Exasperating, to say the least. But I want to find whatever works for her as she declines, so she won't just have to sit all day and stare at nothing. I'm her paid caregiver, so I'm home with her all the time. Once again, thanks to all of you for your much-needed feedback!!
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liverlips: Sure, I can totally help you because I have been there! At the end of my late mother's life, I actually gladly left my Maryland home and moved in with my mother where she was living alone in her own home. She deceased when I was there at 94. But while I was there, one of the things my mother did since she was 15 years of age was to make Christmas fudge. She had macular degeneration or low vision so she struggled with the process of cutting and plating the fudge. So I said "okay, we're going to do this together." And we did, including putting plastic wrap and a bow on top. So for you and your mom possibly you could make it a joint effort/switch it up a bit.
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You might try coloring the dots on the dominoes and see if she can match the colors instead of the number of dots. ( I hope I am remembering correctly how dominoes is played!) Anyway, I found that my grandmother could still recognize colors long after she lost her numbers. It is so hard to watch a loved one decline and decline and lose their abilities along the way. May God bless you both...
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One thing my husband loves finding faces etc in the clouds when we drive. With puzzles the lge pieces are his favorite. I even somtimes give hin a 34 or 64 pc puzzle just to keep him out of sundowners questions. Whatever works.
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Like said, they r not able to learn anything new. Short-term is the first thing to go.
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Downsouth - Xerox coupons for your mom to cut out in case you run short - 'score' with a pastry wheel or similar - sorry to hear of her decline

My mom told me she played cribbage with her dad every night for more than a year & right now I have the cribbage board that they used as it was her grandfather's - that was our wake up call that she could no longer add numbers or keep track of what had been played & gave us the needed knowledge as to how far she had gone down already
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Just chiming in, my mother no longer does any of her favorite things or games, she used to love to play scrabble, and do the NY Times Sunday crosswords, and draw and paint (she was an art professor of which she is very proud) and was an avid reader (still has several thousand unread books on her shelves).

We have many jigsaw puzzles that she starts (opens the box, sorts the colors), but if the puzzle sits on the table for more than two days she says it is harder than she thought it would be and she is sick of looking at it. So our caretaker and I and my daughter try to finish them asap.

I can't seem to interest her in any activities now, other than cutting out the coupons from the Sunday paper. I'm almost ready to ask all my friends to save the coupons and give them to me, and I could give her a sheet to cut out every day. I tell her how much money I save when I shop and this makes her happy.

If I try to suggest something that she feels is beneath her educational and intellectual level she gets offended (like adult coloring books).
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Your situation is both sad and just like so many others' experiences when dementia takes over. My mom can no longer play even simple games so we have found that the "liquid" colored pencils and a simple, one picture object to color (a car, flower, heart, tree, etc) is the best activity to have mom engaged, calm and still active. Otherwise, I take her for a walk in her wheelchair just to get her outside for a change of scenery and some fresh air!
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It IS hard to watch the decline. We all wish for our seniors to be on the top of the world, mentally, right to the last breath, and that rarely happens. My mother was an avid reader. She no longer reads at all. I have broached the idea of books on tape (well, cd's) but she isn't interested. She does do the crossword (super easy) in the paper and the word jumble, tho now they take her all day long. Most of her time is spent looking out the front window at the world and waiting for the mailman. Commenting on cars coming and going and what the neighbors might be up to....it's depressing for me, but she seems OK. Adjusting to the "new norm" is very hard--esp for the siblings who see Mother twice a year. I see her weekly, and it's discouraging to see her sliding inevitably downhill. She can't keep people straight, or events....we just go with the flow. There's really nothing else to do.
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Liverlips486 it's ok to vent, and don't hold back, let it all out as this is the marvel of this Site since NO ONE Judges any Person yet every Carer tries their very best to help. When I Cared for My Mother and I had no support from any one, this wonderful Site was My salvation, and the Carers here every One of them got Me over the line. Keep coming back, and after a little while You become part of a Family. We All wish the very best for You and Your beautiful Mom.
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I agree with everyone here. She will continue to decline and you have to regroup at each step. When my husband first lost his abilities for games I would play with him and direct him, i.e., do you have a 4 in your hand? Put it on the table, etc. or do you have 5 dots, put it here. Then we graduated to looking at old picture albums and talking about places we had been and what was happening in the albums. Then we went to my reading to him. Simple books he could understand. Then to music. Songs he remembered, songs I would sing along to. We went for drives and talked about the scenery. I invited friends who still cared in often. Now, he has list interest in all of it and just lies in bed most of the time. I still play music and hold his hand but he seems to have lost interest in all of it. His hospital bed is level with mine so I can reach out and hold his hand but that's about all we have left. As Nancy Reagan said, it's the "long goodbye."
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I agree that if you dwell on the loss, it serves no one. It's been a hard lesson for me to let these losses go, because they build up- leading to great sadness. Mom used to enjoy playing poker with me, the last mental activity we shared together.
But to dwell on her inability to play now is counterproductive. The first few times when it becomes obvious, was devastating to me. But, now I'm more ready for these things. What I try to remember now are the positive moments we share, no matter how small they may be. We have new "fun" activities - like noticing clocks in a room, even though she can't always tell the correct time. I follow her lead - what she notices, I try to make a game out of it.
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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