Not quite the plan

on finding my groove as a 30 something single girl and caregiver for mom with dementia

And the puzzles get easier.


Mom always enjoyed jigsaw puzzles.  I have fond childhood memories of working on puzzles with her through the winter.  For a few of them,  I even have vague memories of some of the images of the puzzle and the feeling that it would be impossibly difficult.  I suspect Mom was doing 99% of the work.

So in trying to find activities for Mom now, puzzles seemed an obvious choice.  Two years ago, my first pick was a 1500 piece Christmas puzzle that I thought would keep her occupied.  It did, for more than two months!  She frequently stopped me to exclaim,  this puzzle is a b-i-t-c-h-.  And be rather pleased to be using such a shocking term.  I think that puzzle might have been called a b-i-t-c-h- more times than my mom otherwise used that word in her entire life.  My sister and I helped and the three of us managed to finish.  Mom made some contributions but I realized that Mom was going to need easier puzzles. 

We experimented with 750 piece puzzles for adults that were still too difficult.  I found rows of similarly colored pieces covering our puzzle table, few of which ever found their way to connect with other pieces.   We started buying 500 piece puzzles.

I discovered that puzzles with huge swathes of the same color were out.  Mom simply gave up on those parts.  A beautiful scene of various colored fruits seemed a better fit so I bought that and Mom got a lot of it done on her own about a year ago now.  I was thrilled by her accomplishment.  We left it put together on the table for a month.  

Not long after that, I realized that Mom had no more sense of the edge pieces versus the middle pieces.  She was stacking up the pieces chaotically.  Still I encouraged her with extra large 300 piece puzzles.  I found myself putting them together while she moved pieces around on the table.

This Christmas I ordered a 36 piece puzzle made for adults with dementia.  Mom has done it with her caregiver 5 times now.  She needs more encouragement and the occasional nudge,  but she is still doing her puzzles. 

Two years.  From 1500 to 36 pieces.  The progression of this illness shocks me. 


Author: notquitetheplan

I am a mid-30s single girl, trying to climb the ladder, get a date... and make sure Mom takes her meds. It's not where I expected to be. But it's where I am and this blog is about embracing that.

11 thoughts on “And the puzzles get easier.

  1. So sad, and as you say, shocking. I love puzzles too.

  2. I am deeply moved by this post…thank you for sharing this.

  3. My mom has always been into art. She went to art school after college and spent decades selling paintings. The disease has changed her view of things — her colors went whackie, then her proportions. And since Christmas, she’s refused to sketch at all, saying her hands won’t work. But I’m fairly certain it’s her mind. It’s so sad. A sketchbook and watercolors or pastels helped her happily pass a lot of time the past three years. I don’t have a substitute. I wish she would just experiment with shape, whatever shapes. The final product isn’t as important as getting her emotions out.

  4. It was the same with my dad. I thought he might find the puzzles for people with dementia too childish but they worked well. Dad also used to paint but couldn’t draw or even write his name but we found ‘magic’ painting by the people who make the puzzles was bril;liant. We bought the pack of sport pictures and of animals for dad. You just use a paintbrush and water ansd the colours come up. It doesn’t matter if you go over the lines, the colour comes up. Once the painting is complete it dries and the colours fade so they can be used over and over. Might be something for your mum, Amanda.

  5. This was soooooo relateable, although my mom started at 300 piece puzzles and now is in the 36-100 max range. She used to always complete the “frame” first, but no longer does that. She also doesn’t think to take down one puzzle before starting a new one and will often start one on top of another. We often have a lot of missing and mixed up pieces. She spends %90 of her waking hours doing puzzles I think. If you are not familiar with the program, google “Max Wallack” or Springbok puzzles to remember…amazing boy started a charity to distribute puzzles to nursing homes. He also designed puzzles with bigger and fewer pieces with adult themes for Alz. patients. We have bought many from this line and are very happy with them.

  6. These are some great ideas for activities! Thanks to all of you.

  7. What an amazing example of your life. Thank you for loving your mom that way.

  8. Oh, I can so relate! Mom still loves to do puzzles, at least in theory. There’s nothing I can add to the already great comments and ideas, except that I noticed an older relative on my partner’s side, whose mind is still working well, recently quietly stopped doing jigsaws, which used to be a passion of hers. We concluded she must have realized her skills were slipping and it was no longer fun. Quite a contrast with the dementia, which seems to take away that awareness. That’s one thing I am ever grateful for. Thanks for this post.

  9. I just read a few entries of your blog and realized that you are looking after your mum who has dementia. I commend you for your love and devotion.

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