Most of us would like to have amazing memories. Imagine being able to recall entire recipes without having to glance at a sheet of paper. Or impressing your boss by remembering the name and title of every person you met at your last conference. Sadly, most of us have only human-sized memories, which are still pretty darn good. They’re enough to get us through the day, keeping the information we need fresh in our minds and shunting the rest to an undisclosed location deep in the recesses of our brain.
But if you’re a senior–or you’re a caregiver working with seniors–boosting the memory is more than just a luxury. It’s a necessity to keep an elder’s mind in the best condition possible, slowing age-related cognitive decline–and possibly even dementia. See below for helpful tips and tricks to enhance your senior’s memory. You may even find yourself having fun at the same time!
Who said improving memory had to be a slog? Have fun with your senior! You can play word games, do crosswords or other puzzles such as Sudoku, or anything else the senior enjoys. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why these sorts of exercises work, but it’s believed they improve memory-building neural networks in a process known as “neuralplasticity.” If the senior gets bored with the same types of games after a while, go online and find new ones. Different games in this area are being developed all the time. And bear in mind it’s best to complete these types of exercises often: every day, if possible. The more time that goes by between them, the more you increase the odds of a long, slow memory breakdown.
Don’t Make Life a Memory Game
Although it’s fine to enhance your senior’s brainpower with fun pastimes, don’t make all of life a memory game. If you’re a caregiver, and your senior is already having difficulty recalling things, taxing their memory too much can cause trouble. Try keeping things around the senior’s house in familiar places. Don’t move around furniture, household items, knickknacks, or essentials too much. If certain things are constant, it will make it that much easier for the senior to pick up on the skills learned when you two play games, do puzzles and complete similar exercises.
Surprised? Perhaps you thought that brain boosters were only something you did sitting down! Nope–studies have shown that exercise helps protect the memory as well. If your senior is safely able to do any kind of physical activity (walking, stretches, or whatever they are capable of), encourage it as often as possible. Research indicates that a combination of aerobic and strength training is best when it comes to enhancing memory. But of course, talk to the senior’s physician before beginning any new exercise program.
Consider Vitamins and Supplements
Certain vitamins and supplements have been shown to enhance memory, and possibly even fight age-related memory loss. Of course, any new additions to a senior’s diet should be discussed with the senior’s physician beforehand. DHA omega-3s, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 are considered beneficial for your brain–especially your memory. Vitamins C and E, along with the spice turmeric, has been shown to have some value as well.
If You’re a Caregiver, Pay Attention to Your Senior’s Memory
Although the tips in this article should help your senior’s memory stay sharp for a long time, it helps to pay attention to their daily cognition if you’re a caregiver. If you notice them starting to forget certain things–especially things they never used to before–it could be a sign that trouble is ahead. While not all forgetfulness means that the senior will be diagnosed with dementia, any significant change is reason to consult with their physician. Keep that in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to preserving your senior’s memory for as long as possible.
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home senior care. Contact us to find out more.