Remember mastering the order of the colors of the rainbow in elementary school? A number of us were introduced to Roy G. Biv to learn this feat – one of many mnemonics we learn that, remarkably, often stay with us for a lifetime. And now we’re learning that simple techniques like this can help boost senior memory more than we previously realized.
As we age, some amount of memory impairment is to be anticipated; and naturally it’s even more pronounced when Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia is a factor. Medical researchers are constantly aiming to find effective approaches to improve memory and cognitive functioning, and have uncovered some interesting findings on “old school” techniques such as mnemonics. Here’s what they have
Mnemonics produce an association to a memory through a phrase, abbreviation, song, etc. This kind of training revealed noteworthy results in increasing activity in areas of the brain that are impacted by Alzheimer’s, leading to improved retention of information.
There are limitless mnemonic strategies that are really effective in enhancing memory. For instance, try mnemonic keywords. They are an enjoyable and creative way to memorize words in a different language. This technique involves selecting a word that is much like the new word you want to learn, and visualizing an image that brings the two words together. For instance, if you’re trying to remember that chapeau is French for the term “hat,” you might picture Charlie Chaplin and his famous black hat. The “Chap” part of his name can trigger the initial letters in chapeau, and the memory will stick.
Spaced Retrieval Training
This strategy involves gradually increasing the timeframe between memory tests, and was found to also be extremely effective for people with dementia. As compared to mnemonics, however, there was actually a reduction in brain activity, leading scientists to determine that the information had been processed more efficiently.
Spaced retrieval training is very helpful for boosting independence and minimizing anxiety for people with cognitive challenges. Choose a desired activity or event for the person to remember, such as a lunch date with a friend on Friday. First ask the person a question to find out if the memory is already in place. If not, remind them that they are having lunch with Sally on Friday. Wait 15 seconds, and ask the individual the question again. In the event that the memory is in place now, double the time to 30 seconds, and ask again, continuing to double the time and ask again. If the person does not remember after 15 seconds, keep repeating the question every 15 seconds several more times before determining that this isn’t an effective technique, at least not with this particular event or activity.
Both methods are simple, drug-free approaches to incorporate into the treatment for someone in the early stages of dementia, or for anybody who is searching for ways to boost senior memory.
Let Serenity Home Care’s experts in home care in North Saanich and nearby areas provide additional support and resources for someone you love with dementia. Our caregivers help maximize a senior’s cognitive functioning, independence, and quality of life. Contact us online or call 250.590.8098 for additional information.