The Fearless Caregiver


Gary Barg - Editor-in-chief The Gift of Memory


Okay, let’s start with the statistics. According to a study of 2,832 seniors in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), regular memory-training exercises reduced functional decline and improved cognitive ability up to five years after the initiation of the training. This supported an earlier study reported in Neurology that concluded that frequent participation in brain-stimulating activities can reduce cognitive decline in older persons.

The thing that many of us who care for loved ones with memory disorders know for a fact is about the importance of memory exercises. When we would take Gramp for his monthly haircuts (which he loved), he would read the newspaper headlines out loud to the other passengers in the car, and was quite proud of reading the signs on buildings as we drove by them.  It took a while for me to realize that he was instinctively connecting with wordsMemory Care Concepts - Tools for the Caregiver that so many of us took for granted because he knew the repetitive exercise of reading would enable him to stay connected with the world he loved for as long as possible.

When he sat confused and unmotivated during his first days in adult day care, my mom asked him if he would like to teach a painting class for the other participants.  He, being a lifelong artist and teacher, sprang into action, using coloring books and crayons as opposed to his beloved canvases and colorful tubes of acrylic paint; but his mind was engaged and he taught the class with all the zeal and energy as he had done years ago.  It does not take statistics and studies for any family caregiver to realize the importance of a mind actively engaged. We just have to find the proper tools to help create such an engagement.

This holiday season, when trying to figure out if you are going to once again give socks or pajamas for a present, how about giving your loved ones with memory disorders the gift of exercise—memory exercise.  It is the (cliché alert) “gift that keeps on giving” and can actually be a whole lot of fun for the entire family.   


  Gary Barg

Today's Caregiver magazine
Wednesday November 2, 2011
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