For years, the accepted science has been that “brain games” and other activities that engage the problem solving portion of the brain can help to stave off dementia.  But do they? Recent studies have cast some doubt on this method of avoiding Alzheimer’s disease, at least as a standalone solution. If you have a loved one who is in the beginning stages of memory loss, is it helpful to give them a book of crossword puzzles or to sign them up for a brain training website?

The answer seems to be yes, but with caveats.

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There is some truth to the “use it or lost it” mentality.  In fact, keeping the brain firing while working on logic and problem solving is a great way to no only help stay sharp, but to keep from getting bored or depressed. However, experts agree that any individual who relies solely on those activities saving them from memory loss may be fighting a losing battle.

There are other elements of care which senior citizens should have in place, and all of them working together give someone their best chances of retaining mental health.

Nutrition: We know that proper nutrition is important for overall health, not just memory health.  Your brain requires energy to function appropriately, and that includes memory improvement, critical thinking and learning, and clarity of understanding.  Exhaustion from malnutrition typically results in loss of concentration and focus. As important as it is to put good food in your body, it is important to keep bad food out of your body. Limiting processed food and refined sugar while adding fresh fruits and vegetables, fish oils and good fats can help to protect the brain via the dinner plate.

Exercise: The Journey of Alzheimer’s Disease produced a study in 2018 which indicated senior adults with poor fitness habits experienced more deterioration of white brain matter. White matter  is associated with decision making and memory, indicating that regular exercise can minimize cognitive decline. Of course, exercise for senior citizens must be safe and appropriate for their abilities. For some memory care patients this may include a short walk every day; for others, a sitting aerobics class. Be cure to check with your physician regarding safe exercise for any resident of assisted living.

Medications  and Prescriptions:  Some medications can cause brain fog or confusion. The greater problem may be too many medications or medications working against each other. Medication management is important for seniors on multiple prescription drugs, vitamins, or supplements.  Identifying one primary physician to regulate and keep track of medications may help to clear contraindications and clear the brain.

Social Interaction: A recent study conducted by the National Institute of Health proved that people who have even 10 minutes of meaningful interactions per day maintain a better level of brain health. Cognitive assessments showed that continued relationships and friendships give an edge as we age.  Social interaction causes us to think, process and react, keeping our brains active.  During the COVID-19 crisis, the personnel at A Banyan Residence have been acutely aware of the need to keep residents engaged in conversation and interaction.

Proper Sleep:  Everyone knows that when we are exhausted, it can be hard to form a coherent thought. An ongoing pattern of poor sleep can help fuel cognitive decline, so senior citizens should strive for proper sleep habits whenever possible.

Putting all of these strategies to work simultaneously gives an individual their best chance at maintaining brain health. So absolutely – buy the brain training games! But also work on good nutrition, medication management, sleep and exercise habits as well.

A Banyan Residence is here to help. Are you looking for assisted living or memory care in the Venice, Florida area? Call today.