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Senior Health

Mental clarity, memory and age

09/11/2007

Question:

My 84 yr. old mother doesn`t have Alzheimer`s per se, but she gets things more mixed up than she used to and her memory is not great. I know it can be normal for that to decline with age. She does lots of crossword puzzles and reads lots of mysteries, but is there anything else she can do to help?

Answer:

You are right - sometimes memory declines in some older adults. It's great your mother is doing crossword puzzles and reading. There are many other things she can do. Memory jogging includes writing notes to remember things, keeping a little note pad nearby to write down things to remember is helpful to keep things in mind and organized.

You did not provide information about physical capabilities. If she is able to walk,and her health care provider approves, it would be good to get her on a walking program. Physical exercise is linked with memory improvement. Also, a healthy, nutritious diet is a must to assist brain health. She could consult her health care provider about the use of Omega 3 supplements, but do not have her use any supplements without consulting her health care provider. 

Stress can affect memory acuity. Trying to remember or be responsible for too many things at one time can cause memory lapses. Other forms of stress come from physical and mental health issues, environment, finances, social, and spiritual areas.

Here are a few suggestions that may be helpful for your mother's memory enhancement: playing cards (bridge, rummy, etc), chess, other board games, puzzles (sudoku) learning something new (hobby or language, musical instrument, painting). Anything that stimulates the brain. Memory includes paying attention (taking it in), concentration (focus), and reasoning (making item to be remembered important to the person) Have her slow down, focus on the thing to be remembered, and give a reason to remember it (attach some importance to it).

Some computer assisted memory aids can be found online. One site is sharpbrains.com. or elderaerobics (not sure of address)

NintendoDS has a game titled "Brain Age" that has some evidence that it is effective to enhance memory. However, your mother will need access to a NintendoDS player and the Brain Age Game. 

Lastly, to enhance memory, watch less television, interact more with friends and family. Hopefully, these suggestions are helpful.

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Response by:

Evelyn L Fitzwater, DSN, RN Evelyn L Fitzwater, DSN, RN
Associate Professor Emerita
Associate Director of the
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati