• Conner Ashman

Salute The King: Part 1 of My Experience as a Memory Care Volunteer

Updated: Mar 16

Recently, I have been working as a volunteer at my local care center. I assist the activities team with running games, working on crafts, and other things of this nature. One of the games we play is ‘Salute the King,’ a card game that can be played in groups including dementia and non-dementia residents. Our group included about 8 residents without dementia and one resident with advanced dementia. To start the game, a deck of cards is divided evenly among all players. Then, going around the table, each player turns a card over. If the card that a player turns over is a number card, it is added to the pot. If it is a king, players make a“salute” gesture. If it is a queen, players bow their head. If it is a jack, players clap. If it is an ace, players put their hands in the air. The last player to react loses the turn and has the cards in the pot added to the bottom of their personal decks. The first player to run out of cards is the winner of the game.


I was partnered with the dementia resident to assist her in participating in the game. The first time around the table, I gave her the opportunity to attempt to draw the card off the top of our personal deck, flip it over, and then place it on the table. She struggled with this task, so the next time around, I drew the card and handed it to her, leaving the job of flipping it and placing it on the table to her. This was still a little much for her. The third time around, I drew the card, flipped it, and asked her to place the already flipped card on the table for the others to react. She asked me what to do with the card, and I explained to her that she should place it on the table and pointed to the spot for her to put the card down at. She was able to do this, and after a few turns, she stopped asking me “what should I do with this” when I handed her the card. A few times, she asked “did I do it right,” to which I reassured her that she had done her job perfectly.


When other people turned over cards that required her to react, she mimicked what the other people at the table did, either saluting, bowing, clapping, putting her hands up, or just staying put. Admittedly, she was probably the last person to react on each turn, but the other residents never declared her the loser. Even if they had, I don’t know that she actually would have known. She didn’t know if our team of two was winning or losing the game, she was just happy to be involved in it. She mirrored the expressions of other players, getting excited when they were excited, and saying things like “oh darn” when they expressed disappointment after losing a hand.


After the game was over and the residents had cleared out, the staff member thanked me for helping out and expressed that it was fantastic that the resident with dementia was able to participate in that capacity. I got the impression that was the most engaged she had been for some time. This activity could be used for dementia patients who have a small group to work with and also as a one-on-one activity. The patient I was working with benefited from being able to mimic the reactions of others who had an easier time remembering what to do in each situation, but changes to the activity could be made to make it simpler for a more advanced patient or a group entirely comprised of dementia patients. One change that I thought of was assigning a command to each color in the deck. For example, clap for red and stomp for black. This would limit what the patient has to remember and also give them something to react to each time a card is flipped over, which may keep them more engaged.


I have enjoyed my time working at the facility, and it is very fulfilling to assist the residents. In just a few weeks, I have been able to develop friendships with the residents, and spending time at the facility is something that I genuinely look forward to throughout the week. I’m excited to continue this work and share my experiences with the Nostalgia Caregiver Community.

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