Remember memorizing the order of the colors of the rainbow in elementary school? Many of us were introduced to Roy G. Biv to master this feat – one of the many mnemonics we learn that, remarkably, often stay with us for life.
As we get older, some degree of memory impairment will be anticipated; and of course, it’s even more pronounced when Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia is a factor. Scientists are constantly seeking to find effective strategies to improve memory and cognitive functioning, and have observed some intriguing findings on “old school” strategies, such as mnemonics. Here’s what they have recently identified:
Mnemonics produces a connection to a memory through a song, phrase, abbreviation, etc. This type of training demonstrated noteworthy results in increasing activity in areas of the brain that are affected by dementia, resulting in improved retention of information.
You will find limitless mnemonic strategies that are highly effective at improving memory. For example, try mnemonic keywords. This is an enjoyable and creative strategy to memorize words in another language. It involves choosing a word that’s similar to the new word you want to learn, and visualizing an image that brings the two words together. For example, if you’re wanting to remember that chapeau is French for the term “hat,” you could picture Charlie Chaplin and his infamous black hat. The “Chap” element of his name can trigger the initial letters in chapeau, and the memory will stick.
Spaced Retrieval Training
This tactic involves slowly increasing the amount of time between memory tests, and was found to also be highly successful for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. In comparison with mnemonics, however, there was actually a decrease in brain activity, leading medical researchers to determine that the information had been processed more efficiently.
Spaced retrieval training is highly useful for maximizing independence and reducing anxiety for those with cognitive challenges. Choose a desired activity or event for the person to remember, such as a lunch date with a buddy on Friday. First ask the person a question to determine if the memory is already in place. If not, remind them 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, double the time to 30 seconds, and inquire again, continuing to increase the time and ask again. In the event that the person doesn’t remember after 15 seconds, keep repeating the method every 15 seconds several more times before determining that this is not an effective technique, at least not for this particular event or activity.
Both tactics are simple, drug-free approaches to incorporate into the treatment for an individual in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, or really for anybody who is exploring methods to improve memory.
Consider Generations at Home as a partner; our dementia care experts can provide additional support and resources for someone you love with dementia. Our innovative strategies to caregiving help maximize an older adult’s cognitive functioning, independence, and wellbeing. Contact us at 727-940-3414 to learn more about options for dementia care in St. Petersburg and surrounding areas.