Is a senior client/patient you are caring for becoming more forgetful? Are they struggling with increasingly frequent memory challenges?
Sadly, our memory deteriorates as we grow older and, for some, the consequences can be devastating. Memory loss and dementia have profound effects on a sufferer’s quality of life. Thankfully, there are ways to help your elderly clients/patients to mitigate the impact of this debilitating condition.
Here are eight simple tips for helping seniors with memory loss. While they won’t reverse the effects of serious conditions such as Alzheimer’s, they might help you to improve your senior clients’/patients’ quality of life.
1. Make physical activity part of their daily routine
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, adults should get at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity every week. This improves mobility and heart health, but it also increases blood flow to the brain.
They say a healthy body is a healthy mind – so make sure your senior clients/patients have the opportunity to exercise for at least 20 minutes every day.
2. Help them to eat well
Seniors often neglect their diet because of practical issues such as a lack of mobility. They may rely on processed foods or skip meals altogether. But a bad diet is known to contribute to concentration and memory problems.
You can help your elderly clients/patients eat better through meal preparation and grocery shopping. You can also help them to cook well by making some adaptions to their kitchen or enlisting help. Supervise and assist with their diet as much as you can. Foods known to boost memory and concentration levels include oily fish, legumes, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, and fresh vegetables.
Note: Zinc and magnesium are both crucial for good brain health.
3. Encourage them to maintain a healthy social life
Social interaction keeps seniors sharp and engaged and also helps to keep their spirits high. Encourage your elderly clients/patients to participate in local groups, activities and societies. Senior centers, walking clubs, and activity groups all help seniors to live more socially with like-minded people in their local community.
An active social life is a key component in the fight against depression and anxiety. According to WebMD, depression may be a contributing factor in the development of dementia. So do everything you can to make sure your clients maintain a friendship circle they can rely on. Where necessary, due to COVID-19 restrictions, this may include helping to set them up with remote access to groups, family members and friends.
4. Play games together
Mental exercise is just as important for your senior clients/patients as the physical kind. Just like a muscle, the brain must be put through its paces if it’s to stay sharp and effective. One way you can help in this regard is by playing mentally challenging games together.
Whether it’s chess, cards games, a crossword or checkers, mentally challenging games and activities get the gray matter working. They also provide you and your senior clients/patients with a great opportunity to socialize and bond with each other.
5. Help them to sleep better
Good sleep is the key to better mental health and concentration levels. Without it, seniors with memory challenges can struggle to perform even the most basic tasks in life.
If you suspect an elderly client/patient isn’t getting enough quality sleep, ask them to wear a tracking device – such as a smartwatch – in bed. This will give you an idea of how well they are sleeping and to identify when quality sleep is being lost.
The rest is about education. For example, avoiding alcohol and large meals within two hours of going to bed can vastly improve sleep quality. Removing unnecessary distractions such as electronic devices and night lights can also help.
Work together to devise a sleep routine that’s easy to stick to. Going to bed and rising at the same time every day can, over time, improve sleep quality.
6. Use a notebook
Ask your senior client/patient to keep a notebook on their person at all times. Work with them to develop a routine of making a note of important dates and tasks. When a task or appointment has been completed, get them to cross it out.
Creating a daily ‘to-do’ list is a great way of helping your senior clients/patients to remain independent. But it requires commitment from them and supervision from you. Every time you visit them, ask to see their notebook and discuss how it is working out for them. Work together to make remembering a more manageable, less stressful process.
7. Use sticky notes
Visual reminders and prompts can help people with memory challenges to remain independent and in control. For example, brightly colored sticky notes are a semi-permanent reminder of when and how to perform vital, everyday tasks.
For example, you might put a sticky note on the front door to remind your elderly client/patient to take the trash cans out. Likewise, you could use a sticky note near the television to remind them how to access certain channels or streaming services.
Assess their home and the specific challenges each room poses. Where memory loss might be an issue, write instructions or reminders on sticky notes and place them somewhere prominent.
8. Use electronic memory aids
Technology can be intimidating to some seniors, so use it sparingly and in the right way. But a smartphone or tablet can really help people with memory challenges to remember key dates and tasks.
For example, you can use the electronic calendar to remind your elderly clients/patients about important medical appointments. Alarms and voice memos can also be beneficial.
Use photos and videos to create visual reminders of important tasks. For example, you could make an instructional video for using an electronic gadget. This is also a good tool for keeping seniors safe when cooking, cleaning and performing other essential domestic chores.
Memory loss is an unavoidable part of growing old. But with the proper support and tools, you can ensure this unpleasant affliction doesn’t stop your elderly clients/patients from living a happy, contented life.