Activities that Stimulate the Brain and Strengthen Memory

Mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, is the medical term for minor, early stage memory loss. The condition falls somewhere between typical age-related memory decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Memory problems, difficulty finding words, organizing or planning as well as a lack of initiative or motivation are all symptoms associated with cognitive decline. While age-related MCI is natural to some degree, over time it can lead to Alzheimer’s.

Fortunately, there are countless activities that stimulate learning and strengthen cognitive ability. Various leisurely pursuits are believed to reduce the risk of MCI, exercise the brain and help with memory and cognitive functioning. Here are some fun brain stimulating activities to give a try…

Puzzles like Sudoku and crosswords challenge both logic and memory.

Reading books, magazines and newspapers use both language and cognition to strengthen memory.

Playing board games like Monopoly, Scrabble, chess and checkers stimulate brain activity and may reduce rates of memory loss.

Dancing is a cardiovascular workout that increases blood flow to the brain; it’s actually the only physical activity associated with a lower risk of dementia.

Playing instruments involves the area of the brain that uses memory and language skills.

Cooking exercises all five senses and involves multiple sections of the brain.

Crafts like knitting, quilting and painting are intellectually stimulating.

It’s possible you or a loved one have tried some of these activities but still experience gradual memory loss and cognitive decline. It’s important to talk with a doctor about other ways to cope with symptoms. Here are a few tips for day-to-day management of memory decline…

  • Make lists of things you have to do keep them in the same place every day.
  • Jot down notes and reminders, and put them where they won’t be overlooked.
  • Anytime you learn a new skill, write down instructions on how to do it—no matter how simple, this could be a very valuable resource in the future.
  • When learning something new, ask for help when necessary, and don’t hesitate to hire someone to do it for you.
  • Find a routine that works for you and stick to it on a daily basis—this goes for daily activities, mealtimes, sleep/wake cycles, etc.

For more unique tips and interesting ways to help a family member cope with memory loss, contact AT Home Care today.

Signs and Types of Cognitive Impairment

Cognitive dysfunction is a broad term for a variety of issues occurring in the elderly. From mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to dementia, there are several degrees and levels of cognitive dysfunction. Although at one point all were grouped into a single condition as part of the natural aging process, research shows each as unique with different causes, symptoms and treatments.

According to the CDC, cognitive decline is defined as trouble remembering, learning new things, concentrating, or making decisions that affect everyday life. Cognitive impairment ranges from mild to severe. As the condition develops, a person may notice changes in their cognitive function, but still have success accomplishing everyday activities and living independently. More severe types of impairment can impact a person’s ability to control bodily movements, understand the meaning or importance of something, as well as affect speech and writing abilities.

Here is an overview of the most common types of cognitive dysfunction:

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)
MCI causes a slight, oftentimes unnoticeable, decline in memory function. Unlike other types of cognitive impairment which affect speech and bodily control, with MCI only one function is declining—memory. It’s important to treat signs and symptoms as early as possible. A person with MCI is at increased risk for developing more severe types of impairment like dementia or Alzheimer’s. Nearly 10-20% of people 65 and older are estimated to have MCI.

Dementia is more severe than MCI, but initial symptoms appear in the same gradual and progressive manner. Nearly 5 million Americans are living with an age-related form of dementia, and it’s reported that about ¼ go undiagnosed for quite some time. There are several types of dementia.

  • Vascular dementia is caused by an impaired blood supply to the brain and may be brought on by stroke.
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It typically results from the death of nerve cells and loss of tissue in the brain.
  • Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a group of disorders triggered by gradual nerve cell loss in the brain’s frontal and temporal lobes. These are just several among many forms of dementia seen in the elderly.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most serious, and common, form of dementia. It is a progressive disease with symptoms developing gradually before they intensify over time. In its late stages, the disease can make it difficult for a person to handle daily tasks, think clearly, control bodily movements and live independently. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases, and is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

To learn more about identifying the signs and symptoms of these conditions, or to get support for a loved one living with cognitive impairment, contact AT Home Care today.