Remember learning the order of the colors of the rainbow in elementary school? A number of us were introduced to Roy G. Biv to master this feat – among the many mnemonics we learn that, surprisingly, often stay with us for a lifetime.
As we age, some degree of memory decline is to be anticipated; and naturally it is even more pronounced when Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia is a factor. Scientists are constantly striving to identify effective strategies to improve memory and cognitive functioning, and have observed some interesting findings on “old school” strategies such as mnemonics. Here’s what they have most recently uncovered:
Mnemonics produces a link to a memory through a song, phrase, abbreviation, etc. This sort of training revealed remarkable results in increasing activity in areas of the brain that are typically affected by dementia, producing increased retention of information.
There are limitless mnemonic strategies which are really effective in improving memory. For example, try mnemonic keywords. They are an enjoyable and creative option to memorize words in a different language. It involves choosing a word that’s like the new word you wish to learn, and visualizing a picture that brings the two words together. For example, if you’re wanting to remember that chapeau is French for the word “hat,” you could picture Charlie Chaplin along with his infamous black hat. The “Chap” part of his name can trigger the first letters in chapeau, and the memory will stick.
Spaced Retrieval Training
This tactic involves gradually increasing the timeframe between memory tests, and was shown to also be extremely successful for those with dementia. In comparison to mnemonics, however, there was actually a reduction in brain activity, leading medical researchers to ascertain that the information was being processed more efficiently.
Spaced retrieval training is highly beneficial for enhancing independence and reducing anxiety for people with cognitive challenges. Choose a desired activity or event for the person to remember, like a lunch date with a friend on Friday. First ask the person a question to ascertain 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 person the question again. If the memory is in place now, increase the time to 30 seconds, and inquire again, continuing to increase the time and ask again. In the event that the person does not remember after 15 seconds, keep repeating the procedure every 15 seconds several more times before determining that it is not an effective technique, at least not for this particular event or activity.
Both methods are simple, drug-free approaches to incorporate into the treatment for someone during the early stages of dementia, or even for anybody who is searching for ways to improve memory.
Let CareWorks Health Services provide additional resources and support for someone you love with Alzheimer’s. Our innovative techniques to caregiving help make the most of an older adult’s cognitive functioning, independence, and quality of life. Reach out to us at (949) 859-4700 to learn more about our award-winning Huntington Beach senior services. For a full list of all of the communities where we provide care, please visit our Service Area page.