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Tips for Helping Your Older Loved Ones Navigate Memory Loss

How many times has this happened to you?

You’re watching your favorite TV show when you suddenly remember you’ve left something in the bedroom and run upstairs during the commercial, only to forget why you went there. Sound familiar?

Everyone experiences a brain freeze or a “senior moment” on occasion, forgetting why you came into a room, where you left your keys, or familiar words or someone’s name. That’s normal and can stem from a multitude of reasons: you’re tired, stressed, or on medication among them.

However if you are noticing more serious memory loss or perhaps the early signs of dementia in loved ones, it can be frightening for everyone. If you see your parents or other seniors struggling with failing memory, here are some ways to support them as you all deal with issues of their cognitive health.

Help them to:

1. Socialize on a regular basis. Socializing wards off depression, loneliness and stress, all of which contribute to memory loss. Make sure those you care about get together with others, and for your own well-being, you be sure you do it, too.

Crossword Puzzles to Help Against Memory Loss2. Stay mentally active. Crossword puzzles and bridge are useful, but studies show that learning new activities, such as learning to play an instrument or learning a new language, stimulates new areas of the brain.

3. Get organized. A cluttered home, with everything in disarray, makes it that much more difficult to think clearly. Clear out their house. Write things down. Keep a special notebook, calendar, or a list on the refrigerator, and check off items as they are completed. Keep wallets, keys, purses, and other items in one special place. Keep activities organized, too; trying to do too much at one time is much too distracting for anyone.

4. Use “brain boosters.” Connect certain memories together in order to remember them, break long numbers down into small chunks and link together the small pieces, or encourage your loved one to close her eyes for a few seconds to allow a memory to return. Repetition of memories in the mind will help ingrain them and strengthen neural connections. For those who lack focus, offer them a doodle pad and pencils.

5. Eat well. A well-rounded, healthy diet is as good for your brain as it is for your heart. Include avocado, green leafy vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds, berries and whole grains. Cut back on alcohol, which contributes to memory loss and confusion even under the best of circumstances (and, it may adversely interact with medication).

6. Exercise. Even a 30-minute walk each day reaps benefits for your body and mind. If your loved ones are still relatively fit, go with them on a bike ride or take them bowling. Get them to play with the grandkids or the dog. Encourage them to do some gardening. Exercise improves blood flow and oxygen intake, and studies have shown that exercise changes brain chemistry for the better. Physical activity also triggers the release of a protein called BDNF that promotes healthy nerve cells in the brain. So, get going!

7. Get enough sleep. Make getting enough sleep a priority. It helps to consolidate memories, and gives the brain, which remains active while we sleep, the necessary time to process what it must at night to promote a better day ahead. Be aware that dementia often causes various types of sleep disturbances, so maintaining a routine (active) schedule and reducing nighttime distractions can help.

8. Manage chronic conditions. Follow doctor’s orders, and use medications as instructed. Depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, kidney or thyroid problems, as well as other medical problems are common in later years, and the related medications can affect memory.

You are not alone if you have a parent or loved one with memory loss; millions of people face this every day.

At the Lester Senior Housing Community, seniors in our Memory Care Suite keep both their minds and bodies active amid beautiful surroundings. They listen to music, enjoy pet therapist visits, can attend presentations on many topics, and participate in discussion groups. Most importantly, they are part of a dynamic community that offers person-centered care.

Our caregivers understand that each person is an individual and is treated as such, with compassion and understanding in an intimate, comforting environment where their needs always come first.

Here’s another tip to support your loved ones with memory loss: Come tour our Memory Care Suite at our open house event on Sunday, June 24 from 12-4 pm. Contact David Rozen if you’d like to attend or for more information: DavidR@jchcorp.org or (973) 929-2725.

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