Visiting grandparents with dementia can be confusing and difficult for children. Having some activities planned for the visit is likely to help. Kids love to show pictures and SilverLark is a wonderful way to turn it into a game.
In our experience, it’s important to let the kids know to play slowly and let grandma or grandpa take a turn. You might want to talk about how the grandparent may not remember who’s in some of the pictures, but that doesn’t mean she’s not enjoying looking at them. Another tip is to use Apple’s guided access feature to keep the iPad restricted to SilverLark so that your child doesn’t quit SilverLark and abandon Grandma to head off into Angry Birds land. If the game only lasts 10 or 15 minutes, it’s all right, everyone benefits from those minutes of togetherness.
Sometimes the grandparent just enjoys watching the child uncover the pictures or play the match game. It’s so simple that a child and a grandparent can find their own way to play and there is no way to lose. If you’re lucky, a picture might spark a memory and some stories. There’s no guarantee but it’s a wonderful way to try to get a conversation going and if it doesn’t work on the first visit, it just might the next time.
Sometimes older people declare they are not “technical”, “don’t like”, “don’t care about”, “never did get into computers”. It’s been our experience, however, that once we take out the iPad, show a few pictures or play a simple game suddenly everyone is interested. Maybe it’s that “computer” or “technology” is an abstract idea that some people would prefer to avoid but once it becomes personal, once it becomes something that has “my pictures” or “my games” on it, those abstract ideas evaporate.
A tablet is very intuitive, the interface is directly between the hand and the brain – no keyboard, no remote control, no mouse. There is no need to be able to see a tiny cursor. You can easily put it on a table or hold it in your lap and weighs about the same amount as a book. The screen glows and it’s easy to see. It’s small and friendly and when there are pictures on it of grandchildren, pets and memories, it stops being “technology” it becomes yours.
We’ve had one funny experience while testing SilverLark on Alzheimer’s and dementia patients in board and care facilities that has repeated itself over and over. After playing for a while, sometimes one of our subjects will tell us that although they are enjoying the game and like using the iPad, they think that the other people in the facility would not be “with it” enough to handle it. Sometimes they tell us they like it but that other people just aren’t into technology. Comments like that show that the person using the iPad is proud of the fact that they themselves are “with it” and capable of using a hi tech device. SilverLark games are simple but can open the door to something new for dementia patients. We all like to feel that we can learn something new and to someone with Alzheimer’s who has so many doors closing, going through that new door might just feel good.
SilverLark got a great post on the “Surviving Alzheimer’s” blog, written by Paula Spencer Scott author of the book “Surviving Alzheimer’s”, available on Amazon. We really like what she say’s about SilverLark particularly “I say the more tools in your pocket, the better.” Exactly what we’d like to do with our app – provide you with one more tool, a way to enjoy a moment or a momentary distraction in a difficult situation.
Check out her book and her blog, we just downloaded to read on iPad using the free Kindle app.
Although dementia robs people of many things, our innate curiosity does not seem to be easily erased. Like scratcher lottery games, we all want to know what’s hidden under the blue screen. We’d like to find a winning lottery number, but mostly we just want to uncover the mystery. We’ve found that people who don’t recognize the pictures hidden beneath the blue screen still want to rub it away and find out what’s there. Sometimes the picture sparks a memory, sometimes they ask “who’s that?” but it doesn’t matter. There’s no such thing as failure with SilverLark, just enjoying one picture after another in a new way. One physical therapist said “Each picture is like unwrapping a gift.” Everyone likes to unwrap presents, solve mysteries, to see what’s in the envelope and when you put your photos into SilverLark that gift might be a memory.
Completing a matching game and getting a smile and applause is fun if it’s 12 cards or 4. And if the matching game has a few pictures that are recognized, so much the better. You might want to take turns turning over the cards. Make it an opportunity to play a game together.
Your parent or patient might not remember the family pictures you load into the SilverLark library, and in more advanced stages of dementia the caregiver may have to guide the finger across the screen or play a matching game with only 2 cards, but curiosity pulls people into the game. And if the fun of playing only lasts 5, 10 or 15 minutes, so what? That’s 5 minutes of enjoyment. And if they don’t remember it, that’s still 5 minutes that were fun and it will be a new game again tomorrow.