Unsolvable puzzles make public feel like they have dementia

Impossible puzzles that mimic the experience of someone with dementia have been created to frustrate the public and highlight how people with the condition can feel ‘set up to fail’.

One of the five puzzles is an image recognition test.
The five puzzles may appear simple at first but are designed to be impossible to solve.

Intended to replicate the experience of someone who has a loss of memory and other cognitive functions, the confusing puzzles can generate real feelings of irritability, anger and frustration.

Unfair tests spark frustration

The tests have been created by Dementia Trust UK to show healthy people how confusing life with dementia can be.

One puzzle involves a memory game which ensures the game player fails endlessly, while another puzzle is an image recognition test that makes you doubt yourself.

There is also a reading comprehension test that’s unfair and a questionnaire that doesn’t make any sense. For example, one puzzle requires the test-taker to click on the letter 'A'. But when they click on the letter, it moves position and the test-taker is told their answer is incorrect.

Professor June Andrews, a renowned dementia expert, nurse and author, helped create the puzzles. At the bottom of each puzzle there is an explanation note written by Professor Andrews. She describes the feelings that could be experienced by those with dementia, in the same way that she explains them to the families she talks to every day.

'The humiliation arising from not being able to complete simple puzzles gives rise to anger', said Professor June Andrews.

'Do you feel like you're being set up to fail? It’s even worse if you didn’t want to be tested in the first place. It’s not surprising therefore that people avoid seeking a diagnosis, but that delay can stop them from making preparations and accessing care while time runs out.'

June Andrews advises: "Don't correct things that don't matter"
rofessor Andrews writes at the end of the challenge: 'A 'guaranteed to fail' puzzle will likely cause you to feel annoyed, angry, dismissive, paranoid, anxious, irritated, and depressed – and these are all feelings that make life harder for a person with dementia.

Dementia expert Professor June Andrews says the puzzles can be humiliating.
‘A diagnosis of dementia is devastating. If you can’t get these tests right you could lose your job, your driver’s license, and your independence. It is like losing yourself.

‘The fear caused by constant testing causes huge stress. You get angry at the process and the people around you, and you have no idea where to turn for help.’

To avoid creating those emotions for a person with dementia, Professor Andrews recommends the public:

• Don't ask someone with dementia questions, if you can avoid it. • Don’t correct things that don’t matter. • Avoid bringing to the attention of the person with dementia that they are failing a mental challenge, “as this only makes their life harder than it needs to be."

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