By Amy Kawata

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Chances are you or someone you know grew up playing with Legos.

But did you know that these small, colorful building blocks can also be beneficial for people who are dealing with dementia?

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Experts say Legos are powerful tools for stimulating the human mind and getting creative juices flowing.

“We communicated my entire life using Lego bricks,” said Loretta Veney, LEGO Serious Play facilitator.

For Veney, Legos represented a building block for her childhood with her mother. But, she said, the blocks didn’t stop there.

“In 2014, when she forgot who I was, that’s when we started to really focus on helping her find the right words,” Veney said.

Her mother, Doris, was diagnosed with dementia in 2006. Veney says when she started losing touch with memories of her own daughter, she turned to her childhood memory of Legos to help cope.

“It might sound kind of crazy, but it’s really about unlocking, if possible, their imagination that they may not have had to use in a while,” Veney said.

Day by day, Veney would spend time building Legos with her mother just like back in the old days, only this time using it as a tool to communicate.

“When people first started asking me why I was doing it with mom, I would always say, ‘She’s still in there, I just have to go get it,’” said Veney. “I was not going to just suffer through the little blank stare thing, we were going to do stuff.”

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And it worked for years.

“When my mom was sad or agitated or whatever, we would get the Lego bricks out and I would you know get her to remember certain things in our childhood,” said Veney. “It was amazing watching her building and just the look on her face.”

Studies have shown Lego therapy can help keep neurodegenerative diseases, like dementia, at bay by stimulating and maintaining brain function while refining dexterity.

“Seven hours before she lapsed into a coma and died, she was still pushing those Lego bricks around and that meant everything to me, because she still recognized it,” Veney said.

Veney’s mother passed away in January 2022, but now she’s taken her experience and is hoping to build hope and provide inspiration to others.

She’s now leading Lego therapy sessions in dozens of senior centers throughout Maryland and beyond, through partnerships with organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association. 

“Just continue to engage and try. Don’t give up, they are still in there,” Veney said.

Veney will be hosting a free virtual Lego play session on Tuesday, May 31.

Click here to register or learn more about the Lego play session.

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You can also call the helpline number by dialing 1-800-272-3900.