Dementia and LEGO Serious Play
Dementia and LEGO Serious Play
Posted on September 12, 2022
Dementia and LEGO Serious Play for Improved Engagement
I’ve loved LEGO bricks since receiving my first box from my mom when I was just five years old. Many of you have likely played with the bricks with your own kids or grandkids at least once in your lives. But whenever I mention that I use LEGO bricks to bring joy and hope to those living with dementia and to their care partners I get strange looks followed closely by the questions “what?” and “how do you do that?”
My mom and I built LEGO models all the time as I grew up and into my adulthood and we always talked about life as we built. The bricks had always been a way mom would talk about difficult things she otherwise would not discuss. Those little LEGO bricks became a lifeline for us after she was diagnosed with dementia in 2006 when she was 77 years old.
The “what” and “how” of my work with those living with dementia and their care partners is called LEGO Serious Play! It was developed more than 20 years ago by a few professors and a few employees of The LEGO Group in Denmark, originally created to help LEGO improve their internal processes. In 2010, LEGO made their methodology Open Source and Master Trainers who had spent a decade or two as LEGO employees became consultants and began teaching a week-long course to people like me who wanted to become LEGO Serious Play trained facilitators.
Though my mom and I had played with LEGO bricks for my entire life, and it was by far her favorite activity, I took the LEGO Serious Play course in 2014 from one of the founders of the methodology after my mom forgot who I was. I hoped that learning the methodology would help me continue to engage with her whether she knew who I was or not. To say LEGO Serious Play did that for us would be an understatement, and it brought us so much joy that I knew I had to share it with others.
If you’ve never thought about how much joy a pack or box of LEGO bricks can bring to those living with dementia and their family or professional care partners, then you don’t want to miss my upcoming session at Linked Senior’s Decoding Dementia Gathering, happening on Tuesday, September 20th.
In this session I’ll share the four concepts of LEGO Serious Play and how I use it for people living with dementia throughout the stages of the disease. I’ll share the kits I use and why I chose the LEGO bricks that I typically use. I’ll also cover why I began offering LEGO Serious Play sessions in 2020 during Covid for family and professional care partners and how building joy, hope, and superpowers (and many other things) have helped them relieve stress, ignite new caregiving ideas and strategies, and encourages future building even after just one session. One of the best ways I’ve used LEGO Serious Play over the last two years is having the care partner and care receiver build models together, what many organizations call Memory Café events. My experience as a facilitator is that any of the ways LEGO Serious Play is used are powerful! It can bring out memories and stories that may never have been uncovered or shared in typical conversations.
When Mom died in January of this year after 16 years living with dementia, I knew I’d continue our legacy with the LEGO bricks because she always encouraged me to share strategies that work with other people instead of keeping them to myself.
This blog post was written in partnership with Loretta Veney, Inspirational Speaker and Trainer, Owner and Principal Consultant at Superior Training Solutions.