ups and downs as part of caregiving fun

At the toy shop, as I looked around for board games I could play with my mother, the shopkeeper was most helpful. Chess? Scrabble? Err…no. Ludo…hmmm… I couldn’t figure how I’d explain the rules to my mother…so, thank you, but no.

The game had to be simple enough in terms of its rules and visually, and it should work well with two players. Finally, I got us a Snake and Ladders.

My misgivings began soon after I left the shop. Snakes and Ladders is not exactly a high-skill game (a plus), and progress depends on luck (could that be a minus?). I could end up winning, or I would have to be very careful not to win. She may find the sinuous snakes alarming if her token had to slide down to a lower square.

She may feel dejected, and for a dementia patient, that was not going to be a great outcome.

By the time I suggested a game to her, I was quite apprehensive. I gave her the first turn, rolled the die for her, moved her token (I simplified some rules). I took my turn. Her turn. Mine. She climbed a few ladders. She smiled. So far, so good. By this time, she was even throwing the die herself, and, once in a while, counting out her move with her token. I helped unobtrusively to make sure she did it correctly.

Then came the first snake. Rather, her die threw up a number that would take her token right into the open maw of an evil-looking snake. I hesitated. I almost made a ‘mistake’ counting to keep her ahead. Then, I decided, what the hell, and I told her to move her token herself.

She moved it. She reached the snake’s mouth, hesitated, and looked at me. I grinned and said, “Seems you got yourself an unlucky throw”.

She said, “Now?”

With a flourish, I moved her token down the snake’s body with a swooshing sound. “Now thissss.”

And she laughed. I was so relieved, I laughed. We played for some more time, and as I laughed and playfully chatted, I watched her carefully.

I remembered an incident my mother once told me. Many decades ago, as a researcher in child psychology, and as a principal of a college, she had been interviewing a candidate for a lecturer’s position. One of the interviewers asked the applicant: “How long should a play period with a child be?”  The applicant said, “Till the child shows signs of tiring.” That applicant, my mother told me, was given the job, because the answer was perfect.

Over five decades after my mother admired that answer, I sat playing with her, alert for a telltale flicker of wavering attention, and as soon as I spotted it, I said, “Should we stop it? Is it getting boring now?”

She nodded, and I wrapped up the game and moved it away. The anecdotes she often shared with me are coming in useful in unexpected ways…

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About Swapna Kishore
I'm a writer, blogger, and resource person for dementia/ caregiving in India, and deeply concerned about dementia care in India. On this blog I share my own caregiving journey, my experiences as a resource person for dementia care, and musings on life, aging, dementia in India, and such sundries. More about me and the work I do for dementia care in this set of pages:

One Response to ups and downs as part of caregiving fun

  1. Pingback: When families need assistants to help them care for dementia patients (India) « Swapna writes…

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