We all experience some degree of memory impairment as we age. While it affects everyone differently and at a different stage of aging, it is estimated that after late middle age we lose one percent of our brain cells every year. For many, it is as simple as forgetting where the car keys are or not being able to recall someone’s name in a conversation. For others, though, memory loss is a more serious matter. Our loved ones can forget to take medications, for example, or forget that they have already taken them and double-dose.
Because memory loss is one characteristic of Alzheimer’s or dementia, not being able to remember things can be terrifying to an elderly person who desperately wants to maintain the independence of living at home. Some researchers believe that the loss of daily work and physical activity takes away the meaningful structure around which we anchor data. Others think older people have so much more data stored in their memories that it is just more difficult to access.
No matter what the cause turns out to be, we know that there are steps we can take to exercise the brain and prevent or slow memory loss. One of these steps involves physical activity such as walking or targeted exercise. Another thing that may help stave off memory loss is regular reading and, in addition, discussing the book or article. Playing board games is helpful too, because it encourages critical thinking skills. Doing crossword puzzles and other mentally challenging activities can be effective; recent studies seemed to show that doing the crossword in the New York Times four times a week reduced the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 50% over those who did the puzzle only once weekly.
That is encouraging. Just the presence of someone in the home offering companionship and challenging your loved one to exercise the body and the brain can make a difference. That is why we offer memory care as a component of our in-home care for the elderly. Our trained staff can be the “nudge” your loved one needs to slow or prevent additional memory loss.
For more information on how we can help your loved one stay happier and healthier longer, contact us.