Juliee Morrison: How to keep your mind sharp

Have you noticed your loved one exhibiting occasional forgetfulness? While memory loss has often been considered a normal part of the aging process, today we know it can be evidence of something more serious, like Alzheimer’s disease or other memory disorders.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and cognitive decline that can interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases. Alzheimer’s disease impacts more than 5 million Americans each year and is now the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.

Early on, individuals may exhibit occasional forgetfulness, but are still able to function independently. As the disease progresses, a person may become more confused, have trouble remembering personal information, and can struggle performing routine tasks.

The following signs may mean your loved one is experiencing the early stages of a potential memory disorder:

Increased short-term memory loss and forgetfulness — A common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering new information. Challenges remembering recurring activities are also potential indications of something more than typical forgetfulness. These signs of memory loss often increase over time, and you may find this person repeats themselves frequently, or forgets critical information like the dosage for their medication, or when to take it.

A shift in personality — If a person’s mood fluctuates depending on the time of day, or they’re displaying odd behaviors like accusing others of doing or saying something inaccurate, or their tone of voice alters inconsistently — it could be an indication of memory-loss complications.

A change in hygiene — Is a loved one’s hair uncombed or are they constantly forgetting to brush their teeth? Are they no longer going to the barber or hair stylist with their usual regularity? These are indications a person’s memory may be changing as it becomes harder to perform their routine personal tasks.

Catching these warnings at their earliest stages can help you and your family navigate the challenges of a memory disorder. If you notice any of these signs of cognitive decline in your loved one, it may be time to seek care and treatment. A good place to begin is an appointment with your loved one’s primary care provider.

Fortunately, studies show by participating in cognitive stimulation programs and activities such as memory games, arts and crafts or music therapy, individuals can strengthen and improve certain brain regions to delay or decrease the risk of dementia. These programs have been shown to help seniors improve their concentration and overall memory ability through creative and engaging activities.

There are a variety of ways to access high quality cognitive stimulation programs and resources — whether it’s through your primary care provider, local senior center, a senior living community, or even online. There are many smartphone apps and online resources that make the benefits of cognitive stimulation accessible for everyone.

One leading expert on memory and the aging brain, Dr. Rob Winningham, believes cognitive stimulation can come in many forms beyond specific targeted cognitive activities. According to Winningham, volunteering, engaging in hobbies, traveling or learning new skills can all help exercise the brain and enhance memory abilities.

Today we have more options than ever when it comes to treating the effects of cognitive decline. Take steps now to help your loved one live fully for years to come.

Juliee Morrison, BSN, RN, is the Expressions Director for Carson Tahoe Expressions Memory Care at Carson Tahoe Care Center. To learn more, visit: www.PrestigeCare.com.


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