By Mary Cordova, EVP Business Development at Concierge Care Advisor
Ever wonder why our ears seem to get bigger as we age? It’s because our heads are shrinking! Seriously though, we do lose memory as we get older. A few years ago, I remember reading an article explaining that there are ways to outwit or seriously slow memory loss. There was a list, including exercise, diet, etc., but the one that caught my eye was learning another language. It’s been on my list since then, and is still a goal, even though I’m in my 50’s now. It is so important for seniors (and everyone) to continue their cognitive stimulation for brain growth. NO matter what they have upstairs, you want to keep it, and protect against loss of mental capabilities.
No matter what you think someone’s capabilities are, everyone can be challenged. Even if the senior does not remember things from day to day, they can still be mentally challenged in order to promote some cognitive stimulation. Like most of us, seniors are usually more satisfied and engaged when they are interested in something that is cognitively challenging.
My father-in-law has had some sort of memory loss for over twenty-five years. The only thing he can do is feed himself. That said, he does become engaged in many different mediums, such as a love of music and reading; however, he retains nothing.
What he seems to get the most stimulation from is his square tube of dice. How do they fall down the tube? Can he stack in the order they are dropped? Can he stack in color coordination? He seems to do a lot of mathematics with the dice and writes down all kinds of math problems he discovers on the dice. Sometimes he can go for hours in lining them up, putting them in order numerically or by colors. Sometimes we may think he is just playing with dice, until we ask questions, observe, and determine that there may be more going on than meets our eye. That brain is so hard to figure out; however, by observing him, we can see that cognitive stimulation is happening and that he is enjoying himself.
The most important time to be aware of someone’s cognitive stimulation is if they are transitioning prematurely to a memory care community. It may be like putting a kindergartener in with preschoolers, as they will cognitively digress to the preschooler’s level very quickly. Cognitive stimulation is key to keeping seniors as independent as possible.