Puzzles, games, and learning are great ideas for in-home senior care
In recent years there has been much discussion about keeping mentally active as a part of in-home senior care to prevent dementia or to slow its progression once diagnosed. Our brains develop and allow us to think by creating connections among its 100 billion or so primary cells, called neurons. Over a lifetime, there are many, many connections created and it is thought that some are simply redundant to protect for death of neurons, which does happen naturally over the course of a lifetime.
It would stand to reason then, that by building up even more redundancy among more cells, this would allow us to retain cognitive function longer when a degenerative disease like Alzheimer's begins to ravage the brain. One of the research points that supports this theory is that in a carefully controlled study in 2008, more years of education was positively associated with a lower incidence of Alzheimer's in the study group, among both males and females. Makes you want to study, doesn't it?
So, here are some ideas for you on how to stimulate your brain. Since people like to approach projects differently, there are some ideas for each of us, whether you are a computer person, like board games, or like practical approaches.
You can take a formal course. Your local colleges likely offer a significant discount to seniors and offer a wide array of topics, both in classroom and on-line. Click here to find a list of Pennsylvania colleges that offer reduced or free tuition to seniors. Chester County Night School also has some great choices for our friends in that county.
And our last formal education recommendation is to use a fairly new invention called Massive Open Online Courses (also called MOOCs). This trend began in 2008 and has grown to world wide prominence now. These are college and graduate level courses presented by highly accomplished professors at major universities. And the best news, many are completely FREE! The two best known are www.coursera.com and www.edx.org. I have personally taken several courses now through Coursera and find them well done and enlightening. They have quizzes and homework assignments, too. That takes me back in time!
For those who are willing to pay for a different kind of on-line mental exercises, you can try www.lumosity.com. Their first month is free then there is a monthly fee thereafter. Their exercises are designed to build brain skills focused on memory and attention. The nice part about Lumosity is the exercises feel like games, yet they are focused on keeping your mind sharp. Another similar option is www.mindsparke.com. You can learn more about these options and compare the two by clicking here.
Mind Design Games are board games focused on memory care. One of our in-home senior care clients used these and found them very engaging and fun. This is a great option for folks not inclined to use a computer or who are no longer capable of using one.
Of course, let's not forget the role of good old-fashioned crossword puzzles. One study found that doing crossword puzzles provided a two and a half year delay in memory decline!
You can find 12 more ideas at this article, including: play a musical instrument, travel, learn a second language, stay socially active and volunteer! Being a bit self-serving, I will mention that by working with us at Seniors Helping Seniors to provide in-home senior care, you can get to do many of the preventive ideas in this article... and get paid!
The bottom line here is that staying mentally active is almost guaranteed to provide some protection against memory loss and dementias. That's not to say a given individual won't suffer either disorder, but wouldn't it be nice to delay it for a few years? Whichever approach you choose, "just do it!"