We’ve all walked into a room and paused, forgetting why we got up from the couch. Or let an appointment, phone call, or errand slip from our mind. But when an elderly loved one starts forgetting names, places, or regular activities, harmless memory slip-ups can become a reason for concern.
Fortunately, moderate memory loss is a typical sign of aging—-and not necessarily a reason to worry about Alzheimer’s or dementia. And while memory loss is to be expected, studies show there’s plenty of steps you or your loved ones can take to improve memory, boost cognitive skills, and possibly even slow the effects of dementia.
These steps, which include mental exercises and brain games, help our minds improved neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is how well our mind can adapt, change, and react to new situations or information. The more we work on mental gymnastics, the healthier we can keep neuroplasticity —and the more we can continue to remember, learn, and recall.
These mental exercises fall into one of two categories: skill developing and skill retaining. Studies point to learning new things as a key way to keep our mind sharp and developing at any age. At the same time, your elderly loved ones may be struggling to recall skills or abilities they once had, and retaining those skills is crucial for a quality of life.
Here are a few mind (and body) steps you can take for yourself or with an elderly loved one to prevent memory loss and increase mental activity.
Pick up an instrument, or a paintbrush.
Learning a new skill, especially a more complex one, is a sure way to give your brain a workout. Encourage your elderly loved one to join a class or take a few lessons on a topic that interests them. In addition to building brain power, learning new skills can keep your loved one feeling motivated and occupied. Motivation and a positive attitude also go a long way to keeping our minds healthy, so consider a local pottery class a 2-for-1!
Test recall, or leave the list at home.
“Recall” is an important mental factor that, with our phones and shopping lists at hand, we don’t exercise often enough. Try testing recall in small, stress-free ways to encourage focus and sharpen mental skills. Leave your shopping list in your pocket as you wander the aisles, or ask your loved one to describe a childhood home or pet to engage memory and visualization skills.
Use your senses, or smell the roses.
Our senses tie closely to our minds’ ability to learn and remember, so utilizing our sense can keep us engaged and ready to learn. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to experience the senses around the home. Encourage your loved ones to help you in the garden or try something new in the kitchen to enjoy new smells, touches, and tastes together.
Get moving, or even dancing.
Even while you exercise your brain, don’t neglect the benefits of giving your body a light work-out. Not only does moving reduce stress and improve your mood (both of which are great for mental health), it also increases oxygen to your brain for healthier neuroplasticity and reduced risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Non-strenuous workouts, neighborhood walks, or even putting on your loved one’s favorite dancing music are great ways to boost mental and physical health.
Facing memory loss can be difficult for an aging loved one, but there are key steps you can take to improve their mental health and increase their quality of life. Learn more about finding compassionate caregivers focused on dignity and quality of life by reaching out to Community Home Health Care at 845.425.6555. We’re always happy to answer any questions and connect you with the right care for your family.