It is common knowledge that aging may bring with it age-related decline in cognitive functioning, such as short and long-term memory loss. The term “senior moment” is the layperson’s term for this process. But we all have these moments, regardless of our age. It is important to remember when you personally experience a “senior moment” or when your loved one does, that there are many reasons for these brain “blips” besides age or illness – such as lack of sleep, anxiety, depression or chronic stress. So, don’t panic…The good news is that although age-related cognitive decline is scary and worrisome, the more we understand about how and why the brain functions, how it ages and how we can forestall the decline – the less scary and the more empowered we become as self-advocates and as devoted caregivers.
The brain experts (which I am not, but I would like to be) term this cognitive decline generally as “dementia.” For the experts, “dementia” refers to a cognitive decline severe enough to interfere with a person’s daily functioning. However, “dementia” is a general term. Dementia is not the same as Alzheimer’s Disease or Parkinson’s Disease. However, Alzheimer’s Disease is the leading cause of dementia and patients with Parkinson’s Disease may also experience Lewy Body Dementia. According to Dr. Samuel T. Gontkovsky, PsydD, Executive Director of Research and Development at Home Care Assistance, to say that a person has a dementia is analogous to saying simply that a person is “sick.” When someone is sick, a doctor must look for the underlying cause of the illness. The same is true when a patient presents with changes in cognitive function, such as in attention, memory, executive functioning, visual-spacial perception, etc.
Home Care Assistance’s Cognitive Therapeutics Method™
One of our key areas of focus at Home Care Assistance – and frankly what differentiates us from other home care agencies, is our emphasis on research-based programs to lessen the effects of dementia in the aging population. When we say that we are “Changing the Way the World Ages” this is part of what we mean. At Home Care Assistance, we train our caregivers in our proprietary, research-based program called the Cognitive Therapeutics Method™ or CTM –an activity-based, cognitive stimulation program designed to be performed one on one with caregiver and client, in the comfort and privacy of home. The CTM can stave off symptoms of dementia as well as to prevent the onset of new symptoms. A dedicated, multi-disciplinary team of researchers at Home Care Assistance has been researching how we can battle dementia. The research shows that while we can’t regenerate brain cells, we can create new pathways in the brain to help the information flow better. This concept is called “neuroplasticity” and it is a pretty amazing concept. Our caregivers are trained to do brain training exercises with our clients to boost memory and focus – and the key is to make it FUN!”
The Home Care Assistance of Annapolis Team recently traveled across the country to Arizona to take part in a “train the trainer” event on the Cognitive Therapeutics Method™. After all, the Method would not be effective if we did not take the time to train our caregivers on how to administer the program effectively to our clients. We learned that the key is not to get all the answers correct, but to exercise the brain. We engaged in role playing, such as how caregivers should react when a client struggles with an answer or tires from an activity. We learned that the process of thinking is more important than achieving the correct answer. Activities are customized to individual client’s level and ability to avoid frustration. As long as the senior is interested and has the desire, the CTM will be effective, regardless of cognitive ability. The best part is that we can track a client’s progress over time and actually see evidence of improvement.
Age-related declines in cognitive functioning are a serious concern for senior adults who may worry about losing their memory and reasoning capabilities. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, senior adults who participated in brain training sessions retained the benefits of brain-boosting exercises ten years after the training began. Some simple brain training exercises we utilize in our Cognitive Therapeutics Method™ are described below:
Brain Training Exercises
Memory Training Exercises
Rote-memorization is one way to increase a person’s ability to recall important information. However, memorizing long lists can become boring. Now, senior adults can participate in interactive brain training exercises online that use multiple senses to enhance recall. During a memory-focused brain training exercise, a senior adult will listen to a series of words and then be encouraged to match them to their meaning. Alternatively, they may be asked to rearrange a list back into its original order. These simple games help to reinforce the neural connections that are critical for maintaining one’s memory.
Increasing Processing Speed
The mind is very similar to a computer, and increasing a senior’s processing speed will help them to be able to react quickly to changing information such as what one may encounter while driving. During these types of brain training exercises, seniors will identify changes in direction, color or the shapes of a set of images. As they progress in their abilities, the speed will continue to increase so that seniors are challenged even at the advanced levels of the game.
Seniors with Alzheimer’s and other progressive diseases often struggle with remembering names or recognizing faces. For this reason, brain training focuses on providing seniors with a way to learn how to overcome this challenge. They can choose to use computer games that display a series of faces or names. Alternatively, homemade games can be created using familiar faces. Using these games, seniors practice their skills at recalling faces, names and pertinent details while also learning strategies to enhance recognition. If you care for an aging loved one with Alzheimer’s, you can read more Alzheimer’s care in Annapolis to see if in-home services are the right choice for you and your loved one.
For more information about Alzheimer’s or dementia care our Cognitive Therapeutics Method™, please do not hesitate to reach out to an Annapolis Home Care Assistance Care Manager at 443-302-2771. Our phone lines are open 24/7 and we offer complimentary consultations to ensure that our services are the right fit for you and your aging loved one.