Puzzles can be a beneficial activity for care home residents for several reasons and in this month’s Activity of the Month we share how.

For the residents of a care home, mental stimulation is hugely important for maintaining and improving cognitive functions. Unfortunately, for those who don’t have regular visits from family members or friends, living in a home can sometimes evoke feelings of loneliness, which means introducing activities, whether they are solo or in a group, can massively help with an emotional state.

Puzzles engage the brain and promote cognitive stimulation as they require critical thinking, problem-solving and memory skills. Regular puzzle-solving can help improve cognitive abilities and maintain mental acuity, which is important for brain health, particularly for older adults.

Offering or introducing puzzles into either a routine amongst residents, or having them out as an option in the lounge area, will also help with memory enhancement. Challenging residents to recall information, recognise patterns and remember spatial relationships can be particularly valuable for individuals with mild cognitive impairments or dementia. On top of this, the introduction of puzzles will not only benefit those living at the home, but it demonstrates initiative in you and your team, and won’t go unnoticed by visitors.

Often in care homes, the self-esteem of the residents can be low. Engaging in puzzle activities can promote a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when residents successfully complete a puzzle and, therefore, boost self-esteem. We are seeing a real increase in homes encouraging residents to ‘live with purpose’, rather than succumbing to potential feelings of loss when moving out of their family home, and, with puzzles providing a sense of purpose and fulfilment, feelings of boredom and restlessness can be alleviated.

Social interaction is essential within a care home environment. Working on puzzles in groups fosters communication, collaboration and a sense of community, which helps provide opportunities for conversation, shared problem-solving and the development of social connections among residents.

When introducing puzzles into your residence, providing a range of different options in terms of sizes and ability is important to bear in mind. Providing a variety will lessen the possibility of residents feeling overwhelmed or stuck.

Ensuring you provide residents and visitors with a sense of calm is important when setting the overall mood of your home. Engaging in puzzle-solving has, in the past, been related to having a calming effect on people, promoting relaxation and stress reduction, whilst also serving as a form of mindfulness, allowing residents to focus their attention on the task at hand and temporarily escape from other concerns or worries.

Along with the plethora of benefits puzzles can bring, handling the actual pieces of a puzzle requires fine motor skills, such as grasping, manipulating and fitting them together. When residents regularly participate in puzzles, it can help maintain and improve motor skills, which can be especially beneficial for individuals with conditions that affect their dexterity and coordination.

Subscribing to a monthly puzzle delivery is a good way to keep residents excited about the problem-solving activitis and, again, provides a great sense of ‘living with purpose’. Gibsons (gibsonsgames.co.uk/pages/gibsons-puzzle-subscription) is just one great example of a brand which offers this service, meaning there are frequently new and exciting additions to the game box/activity options.

Overall, puzzles provide a mentally stimulating, socially engaging and emotionally rewarding activity for care home residents. They can contribute to improved cognitive function, memory, emotional wellbeing, social interaction and fine motor skills, making them a valuable addition to the activities offered in care home settings.