Want to help residents exercise their brains? Research shows that using activities that prompt individual parts of brain function can slow the development of dementia and improve daily quality of life. Games don't have to be complicated or expensive to be effective. Everyday objects, photographs and music can be used to keep residents' cognitive functions limber.
Many activities that improve function in residents with dementia involve “memory matching.” Did you see that photo before? Can you match two exact images among a field of other images? How fast can the matching be done? These activities all exercise the occipital lobe, the temporal lobe the temporal sulcus and the amygdala parts of the brain, responsible for visual recognition and short-term memory. These are also parts of the brain that have the ability to recognize visual patterns, including faces and facial expressions.
Math exercises don't have to be complex to be valuable. Math activities appear to use very specific parts of the brain, including the parietal, prefrontal and inferior temporal regions. Asking residents to do simple math problems—and to complete them as quickly as possible—help to exercise these parts of the brain.
One of the key symptoms of dementia is the inability to put things in correct relational categories, says Joshua Freitas, M.Ed, CADDCT, CAEd, Vice President of Program Development at CERTUS Senior Living, who spoke on dementia interventions at the 2017 Spring IASC Memory Care Forum. “Showing them a picture of a lion and a picture of a kitten and then asking, ‘Which one of these would make the better house pet?’ tests their ability to choose a category based on the executive function part of the brain.” Decision-making activities exercise the frontal lobe of the brain as well as the temporal lobe and the prefrontal cortex.
Long-term memory function
Remembering things over longer spans of time involves the brain’s hippocampus, housed deep inside the medial temporal lobe. Studies show that this part of the brain is responsible for transferring memories from the short-term memory into the long-term memory banks. Activities that test a residents’ ability to recall facts or events from activities that happened a week ago or longer can exercise this part of the brain.
Pamela Tabar was editor-in-chief of I Advance Senior Care from 2013-2018. She has worked as a writer and editor for healthcare business media since 1998, including as News Editor of Healthcare Informatics. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Kent State University and a master’s degree in English from the University of York, England.
Topics: Activities , Alzheimer's/Dementia , Articles