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.