Q: Do you have recommendations on how I can help keep my parents brains active?
A: Many of the adult children whose parents live here routinely ask about their parents’ forgetfulness. We respond that it is very common with older adults but that there are activities that help stimulate their brains. Even though they won’t suddenly remember the entire Preamble to the US Constitution, they may become slightly sharper.
• Exercise. Whether walking or participating in an exercise class, regular daily exercise does a world of good with stimulating the brain.
• Take a Class. Many senior living communities offer classes that teach different hobbies or provide a series of lectures on a specific topic.
• Keep a Journal. Our aging parents are full of stories and anecdotes that we never sometimes know took place.
• Play Games. Games like these force us to think and figure things out; card games typically involve social interaction which in and of itself is another great brain stimulant.
• Read. Reading does more to stimulate the brain to the point that researcher’s say that it can help prevent future memory loss.
Q: I am struggling with communicating with mom who has onset dementia. What guidance can you provide?
A: One of the simplest ways to provide care for your loved one or parent is often one of the toughest things to learn – how to communicate with them once Alzheimer’s is set in. Regardless of someone’s mental state or capabilities, they are still deserving of respect and dignity as they battle this terrible disease, and one of the best ways to help them is to make communication as simple and clear as possible. Here are some suggestions put forward by The Mayo Clinic and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America on how best to communicate with someone with Alzheimer’s.
• Be clear. When you enter a room that the patient is in, state your name, as simply as, “Hi Mom, it’s Danny”.
• Talk to them for who they are. Don’t talk down to them or praise them like a child.
• Don’t interrupt when they are speaking.
• Stay calm. You will get frustrated. These are the times for you to be at your most compassionate, but also to respect yourself enough to realize that you can’t do it all by yourself.
• Reinforce words with visual representation.
Beth Davis, LPN, Memory Care Program Director/ARCD Rittenhouse Senior Living of Indianapolis