Alzheimer’s Activity – Create an easy to solve crossword puzzle especially for your loved one with dementia!
Ready to print senior-friendly crosswords also available below!
Before Alzheimer’s, my mom worked on crossword puzzles constantly! She had crossword books in every room of the house.
Sadly, I watched her ability to complete the puzzles decline to the point she could no longer do them. We still have a stack of half-finished puzzle books she wasn’t able to complete. The print in the books is too small, and the clues are too difficult for my mom’s mid-stage Alzheimer’s.
In my never-ending quest to find activities to keep my mom busy and engaged, I decided to create some puzzles with clues I knew she would be able to solve. It worked! She’s really enjoying these personalized puzzles.
When I first had the idea for these puzzles, I tried some of the free online puzzle maker sites. These didn’t work for me, because I didn’t have enough control over the font size. My mom needs really large print, so I decided to create the puzzles using a spreadsheet to give me complete control. I can create these pretty fast now. Here’s what I do:
Pick an Alzheimer’s friendly theme
I begin by coming up with a theme. Choosing a topic from Mom’s distant past seems to work best for her at this stage. Old movies, songs from the 50’s and 60’s, holidays, and things about her hometown are all puzzle themes we have found success with.
For this puzzle, I used Christmas. Keeping all the clues about one topic really helps Mom come up with the answers. Once I have the theme, I make a list of really obvious related words.
Then I start writing clues I know will give Mom the answer.
- Santa’s helper
- A Christmas drink
- Christmas month
If I ‘m not positive she will know the answer to a particular clue, I ask her! By the time I get the puzzle finished and ready for her, she has forgotten I asked. When she is working on the puzzle, I want her to get every single answer!
Use a spreadsheet to create the puzzle
Once I have the clues and answers it’s time to get to the nitty-gritty of creating the actual puzzle. I use Excel, but really any spreadsheet program should work. Just make sure all of the cells are square and that you are set to print on a standard size piece of paper.
Once I get all the words to fit, which can take some fiddling, I put borders around all the words and save the file as the answer key. Then, I delete all the letters and save it again as the actual puzzle. I always strive to make the print as large as I can for Mom, so I put the clues on a separate page.
At this point, I usually pull the puzzles into another program to “pretty them up” a bit. I usually use Canva. It’s pretty user-friendly. Canva is where I add the clue numbers onto the puzzle. It’s totally not necessary though. You could add the numbers in your spreadsheet program and print right from there.
Print your custom Alzheimer’s activity crossword puzzle
Once I print, Mom has a “made for her” crossword puzzle that brings success instead of defeat! My mom knows her mind is failing her, so anything I can do to give her a sense of independence and success is time well spent.
If you make an Alzheimer’s friendly crossword for your patient or loved one with dementia, please share it in our Facebook group!
Running low on time to create your own puzzles? I currently have Christmas and Halloween themed crosswords in my Resource Library of senior-friendly activities and printables. The library is available free to members of our caregiver community! If you aren’t already a member, you can subscribe by filling out the form below.
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Would you like more activity ideas for your loved one with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia? Be sure to check out this list of over 75 fantastic Alzheimer’s activities to keep your loved one busy and engaged!