Forget Losing Your Car Keys: 6 Tips To Keep Your Memory Sharp
If you’re over 55 and worry about memory loss, you’re not alone. In fact, memory loss is one of the top aging fears and it’s no wonder with all the ominous statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association such as the fact that someone in the United States develops the disease every 65 seconds. But, it’s important to remember that memory loss doesn’t always mean Alzheimer’s, and that there are ways in which you may be able to reduce your risk. Here’s how you can help keep your memory sharp.
TIP ONE: Practice Lifelong Learning
Researchers believe that mental exercise may help maintain brain cells and stimulate communication among them. If you still work, look for opportunities for continued learning there. Aside from work, you can learn a new skill or a new language; take a class, pursue music or art, continue (or begin) a hobby and/or approach a task in a different way.
TIP TWO: Engage Your Senses
It turns out that the more senses you involve when doing an activity; the more likely you are to remember it. For example, researchers have found a link between the brain’s auditory cortex and its limbic system, making it possible for sound to be processed almost immediately by areas that are associated with long-term memory. Studies have shown smell to aid in recall as well. So incorporate touch, taste, smell, hearing and seeing together wherever possible.
TIP THREE: Challenge Your Mind
Playing chess or bridge and doing crossword as well as jigsaw puzzles aren’t just fun ways to pass the time. These types of games are also a great way to enhance memory and the processing speed in your brain. So is sticking your nose in a good book on a regular basis. Plus, games, puzzles and reading are also known to reduce stress which can have its own detrimental health effects.
TIP FOUR: Exercise Your Body
Don’t discount the mind-body connection as research has suggested that parts of the brain that control thinking and memory have greater volume in those who exercise versus those who don’t. And it doesn’t even have to be strenuous exercise; just regular exercise. For example, the National Institute on Aging recommends older adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week in sessions of at least 10 minutes duration.
TIP FIVE: Mix And Mingle
One of the best ways to combat depression and stress – which can both contribute to memory loss – is to stay social. If it’s hard to keep in touch with friends and family in-person, technology such as FaceTime and Skype can help you overcome distance and transportation barriers. To make new social connections you could join a book club, bridge club, a walking group or even take part in local volunteer opportunities for causes important to you.
TIP SIX: Get A System
There’s no reason to waste any mental energy searching for lost keys or trying to remember appointments when you could be reaping all the benefits of the tips above! Instead, use calendars, to-do, shopping and contact lists to help keep track of it all. You could even go paperless and store it all on your phone. Also, designate a place for your glasses, keys, purse and anything else you use often. Bonus – removing clutter around the house can also help limit distractions.
If Memory Loss Becomes More
While the brain benefits from staying socially and cognitively active, there are no guarantees. If memory loss starts to affect your ability to live independently, to maintain a social life or to care for yourself it’s time to seek help.
Alzheimer’s disease is actually only one type of dementia, although it is the most prevalent type. Rather than a disease itself, dementia is an umbrella term for the symptoms associated with a decline in reasoning and/or memory that impairs your ability to perform daily activities.
There’s no one test that diagnoses dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Diagnosis is based on medical history, physical and neurological exams, lab tests, brain imaging and the symptoms experienced. Dementia treatment depends on the cause. While currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, treatments to slow symptoms and improve quality of life are available.
Understanding Memory Care
If you or a loved one were to need care outside the home, you might consider memory care. A type of senior living, memory care is specifically designed to support those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. These communities provide 24-hour, individualized care through specially trained staff in a safe, nurturing environment.
For example, memory care at Richfield features a household model with a front porch, private rooms and private baths clustered around a shared living space that includes a full ‘house’ kitchen, comfortable common areas and laundry room. We also embrace renowned dementia care expert Teepa Snow’s Positive ApproachTM to Care by empowering our residents’ continued engagement and purpose through tasks, by focusing on remaining abilities and by integrating their preferences into daily life.
Keep in mind that memory care facilities are not always stand alone. As is the case with Richfield, memory care may also be found on the same campus as assisted living and nursing care which can be helpful as needs evolve.