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Expert advice on games that help with stroke recovery



How can games help stroke survivors to rebuild their lives? Anitha Thomas, lead Occupational Therapist at Bupa Care Servicesoffers her insight and suggests ways in which games can support wider rehab.

Incorporating games into the recovery process can be an effective approach for stroke patients. When chosen carefully, games not only offer an enjoyable experience, reducing stress and anxiety, but also serve as a valuable tool to help improve skills, regain independence and helps to improve their overall wellbeing.

Games can assist in regaining skills that may have been affected by the stroke including motor function (the ability to move the body voluntarily), cognitive function (including memory, learning, attention, decision-making, and language abilities), and social interaction (verbal or nonverbal conversations). Encouraging these skills to be relearned through games may help your loved one to participate more in daily life.  

Stroke recovery can be a long and challenging journey, but it is possible to regain mental and physical function with hard work and dedication. Finding the motivation to stick with a recovery program can be difficult, but fun activities can help make the process more enjoyable.

Ten games ideas to help stroke patients in recovery:

  1. Puzzle solving: Provide puzzles such as jigsaw puzzles and crosswords. These activities engage the mind, enhance problem-solving skills, and promote concentration.
  2. Adapted board games: Modify traditional board games by using larger, easier-to-grasp pieces or adding tactile elements for individuals with limited dexterity. This allows stroke survivors to enjoy familiar games while promoting social interaction and cognitive stimulation.
  3. Memory matching game: Create a memory matching game with cards or tiles that feature familiar objects, numbers, or pictures. This can help exercise memory and improve cognitive abilities.
  4. Word association: Encourage stroke survivors to play word association games where they try to connect words based on similarities or categories. This can stimulate language skills and help with word retrieval.
  5. Music therapy: Incorporate music-based games into rehabilitation sessions. This can involve rhythm tapping, singing along to familiar songs, or playing simple musical instruments. Music stimulates the brain and can enhance motor skills and emotional well-being
  6. Arts and crafts: Memory Box: Guide stroke patients in decorating and personalising a small box to create a memory keepsake. They can use various art supplies, photos, and meaningful objects to make the box a reflection of their memories and experiences. This activity encourages self-expression, emotional well-being, and reminiscence therapy.
  7. Chair dancing: Modify dance routines to accommodate individuals who may need to sit during the activity. Use arm movements, head bobs, and foot tapping to create a fun and rhythmic seated dance experience. This helps improve mobility, range of motion, and coordination.
  8. Sensory stimulation games: Develop games that incorporate sensory stimulation, such as matching colours, sorting objects by texture, or identifying scents. These activities can aid in sensory recovery and improve overall perception.
  9. Digital brain training: Explore brain-training apps or software that offer cognitive exercises specifically designed for stroke survivors. These programs often target memory, attention, problem-solving, and other cognitive skills.
  10. Virtual reality sports: Utilise virtual reality technology to create immersive sports experiences. Stroke survivors can participate in virtual tennis, golf, or bowling, allowing them to engage in physical movements while enjoying the benefits of rehabilitation.

When engaging in these games, it’s important to prioritise safety. Start slowly, listen to the body, and take breaks as needed. Finding a quiet space and involving a friend or family member for support and motivation can also be beneficial.