Remember mastering the order of the colors of the rainbow in elementary school? A lot of us were introduced to Roy G. Biv to master this feat – one of many mnemonics we learn that, remarkably, often stay with us for a lifetime. Even as we grow older, research is showing how effective techniques like this can be to improve senior memory.
As we age, some degree of memory impairment will be anticipated; and naturally it is much more pronounced when Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia is a factor. Scientists are continuously seeking to identify effective strategies to improve memory and cognitive functioning, and have uncovered some interesting findings on “old school” strategies such as mnemonics. Here is what they’ve recently uncovered:
Mnemonics provides an association to a memory through a song, phrase, abbreviation, etc. This type of training revealed noteworthy results in increasing activity in areas of the brain which are typically impacted by dementia, resulting in improved retention of information.
There are unlimited mnemonic strategies that are really effective in improving memory. As an example, try mnemonic keywords. They are an enjoyable and creative way to memorize words in a different language. This involves choosing a word that is similar to the new word you wish to learn, and visualizing a picture that brings the two words together. For instance, if you’re wanting to remember that chapeau is French for the word “hat,” you could picture Charlie Chaplin along with his infamous black hat. The “Chap” part of his name can trigger the initial letters in chapeau, and the memory will stick.
This tactic involves slowly increasing the amount of time between memory tests, and was found to also be highly successful for people with Alzheimer's. As compared to mnemonics, however, there was actually a decrease in brain activity, leading researchers to ascertain that the information had been processed more efficiently.
Spaced retrieval training is highly useful for improving independence and minimizing anxiety for those with cognitive challenges. Choose a desired activity or event for the person to remember, like a lunch date with a friend on Friday. First ask the person a question to ascertain whether the memory is already in place. If not, remind them that they are having lunch with Julia on Friday. Wait 15 seconds, and ask the person the question again. If the memory is in place now, increase the time to 30 seconds, and inquire again, continuing to double the time and ask again. If the person doesn't remember after 15 seconds, keep repeating the procedure every 15 seconds several more times before determining that this is simply not an effective technique, at least not for this particular event or activity.
Both tactics are simple, drug-free approaches to incorporate into the treatment plan for someone during the early stages of dementia, or for anyone who is searching for ways to improve senior memory.
Let Help at Home Senior Care, the experts in respite care in Lincoln, CA and nearby areas, provide further support and resources for someone you love with dementia. Our creative techniques to care help make the most of a senior’s cognitive functioning, independence, and wellbeing. Contact us at (530) 885-7444 to get more information.