Don’t Worry, Do Something!

“I’m worried about (fill in the blank of a loved one), their memory isn’t what it should be.” I hear this often and did again the other day. Many suffer more forgetful moments with age. For those of us in middle age, it can be due to increased stress or doing too many things at once to focus and remember well. In our older years, many see forgetfulness as a normal sign of aging and lesser abilities overall. While there is a bit of truth to that, we should still be able to recall what we want, when we want, even as we get older.

My friend said her loved one was less social and didn’t engage in many mentally challenging things any more. These comments were a red flag to me. Often those experiencing memory loss tend to withdraw from socialization because it’s more difficult. They don’t like doing mentally stimulating activities because they’re more challenging than in the past. It’s not fun being in those situations! But in these situations it’s important to stay engaged and also speak to your physician.

Memory loss can be caused by many things including stress, depression, medication interactions, or a physical issue. If these are all ruled out, then a neurological assessment should be done to see if there’s another reason for the memory issues. A complete workup can differentiate why memory issues are occurring and help with treatment.

But one thing that will help us all is mental stimulation. Ideally, we all want to challenge ourselves daily to the point of it being a mental workout, but not stressful. How we do this varies depending on the individual, time of day, circumstances etc. The important thing is to just do it!

Do what you love by pushing yourself to learn something new or by doing it differently. My friend who was concerned about her loved one said he liked to read, so I suggested reading aloud. It activates more of the brain than reading silently. Leisure activities may have to adjust too. If one card game causes stress, try a different one that challenges but doesn’t frustrate. Or simply do challenging things for shorter time periods to give your brain a break.

Another way to push ourselves mentally is to do it with friends or family. Play games together, go to cultural events, learn new things, or travel to new places. When we do things with others we stimulate our brains differently than we can by ourselves. It’s always more fun to learn new things with others!

Aging can create its own challenges and if memory loss creeps in, the difficulties mount. It’s important to acknowledge and seek assistance as soon as memory issues are noted. The earlier strategies are put in place, the better memory loss can be managed. Seek professional help and therapies to assist. Being proactive with mental fitness, being with others and learning memory strategies can improve and lengthen quality of life. Don’t worry about memory loss, do something about it!

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