With the Alzheimer’s Association estimating that 5.3 million Americans have the disease, health news outlets are filled with articles on tips and tricks to keep your brain in shape to prevent dementia. What about those who have already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia? Is there anything you can do to help slow down the rate of progression in your loved one? A scientific review board in the United Kingdom thinks that the answer might be yes!
No Time to Give Up Hope
With no cure yet in sight, dementia and Alzheimer’s are diseases that will inevitably progress once they are diagnosed. However, progression rates vary from individual to individual. A diagnosis doesn’t mean you give up hope for your loved one or assume they can no longer engage in a fruitful conversation, learn new skills, or enjoy mentally stimulating activities, like word searches and card games.
In fact, the Cochrane Library, a scientific review board analyzed 15 studies related to engaging individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia and found that those who participated in mentally stimulating activities scored better on memory and thinking tests. According to an article by the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation about the results, the effect on the individuals was, “equivalent to about a six to nine month delay in worsening of symptoms.”
What Activities Can Help Strengthen the Brain?
The studies that the Cochrane Library reviewed showed positive results in individuals who engaged in activities that focused on the use of thinking and memory, such as word games, puzzles, and conversations about current events. Even individuals who listened to music, gardened, and baked show improved thinking skills.
What does this mean for your loved one? Simply put, you can help your loved one keep their mind strong and possibly slow the progression of decline by encouraging them to participate in similar activities, such as:
- Playing card games
- Discussing current events with them
- Singing songs together
- Telling stories
- Playing simple board games
- Doing word searches or simple crossword puzzles
- Doing beginner arts and crafts projects
- Making meals together
Of course, you will need to keep a close eye on your loved one and take some precautions against the risk of injury. For example, while cooking, you should handle anything related to the stove and oven. With crafts, consider using kid-safe scissors or making cuts with sharp scissors for you loved one. You also need to show patience and ensure that the activity is within your loved one’s capability. For instance, your loved one may have trouble doing complicated needlework.
Lastly, the results of the Cochrane Library review suggest that these brain training activities can be helpful to individuals in the early and middle stages of dementia but have little effect on those in the late stages.
Even More Benefits to Consider
These fun, mental stimulation activities aren’t just good for the brain. They can also be a balm to the soul! The studies suggest that engaging in activities like baking, gardening, and having a conversation with others can improve a person’s feeling of well-being and quality of life too! It makes sense. You feel good when you get to spend time talking with your friends or doing an activity together. As we’ve written about before, Alzheimer’s and dementia can be extremely isolating. Helping your loved one stay mentally active is also a great way to help them keep up their social skills and feel connected with you and their family.
Sunshine Care’s OWLS Program
At Sunshine Care, we embrace the challenge of keeping our residents physically and mentally engaged. If you take a look at our activities calendar, you will see that we offer many opportunities every week for our residents to try new things and stay active. We are also very proud of our new OWLS program, which stands for Older, Wiser Learners Society. We offer multiple OWLS classes a week that are specifically focused on engaging students in mentally stimulating activities, games, and conversations. The classes are guided by a Certified Cognitive Stimulation Instructor and have been a big hit so far!
Give us a call to learn more about our OWLS program or all the activities and adventures we offer at Sunshine Care.