“My elderly father has his days, but for the most part, he still seems pretty sharp. Is there anything I can do to help him stay that way? What tips do you have for boosting brain health?” –Christine from Sandy Springs


That is fantastic to hear that your father is still going strong. I understand wanting to hold off cognitive decline for as long as you can for your senior.  For many families, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other causes of mental impairment can make it difficult for their loved ones to function and maintain relationships.

The truth is that many seniors may not develop anything more than mild cognitive decline. Whatever family members and caregivers can do to preserve their mental faculties may help slow any progression and maintain a good quality of life. Let’s talk a bit more about what causes cognitive impairment and how boosting brain health helps.

The Main Reasons for Cognitive Impairment

When you think about brain health, you may focus more on cognitive issues, such as the ability to think, learn, concentrate, and remember. If you think of the brain and the master computer for the body, you can see how much more processes it handles simultaneously. From tactile information, such as responding to touch or other senses, to motor function skills, including balance and movement control, the brain is doing it all. On top of all those responsibilities, your brain also interprets and expresses emotions and responses. After decades of smooth sailing, it does start to decline naturally, just as the rest of the body does.

However, for some seniors, this decline slowdown may occur because of chronic medical conditions or a health emergency, including these events:

  • Stroke or mini-ischemic attacks
  • Alzheimer’s or other dementias
  • Traumatic brain injury, especially from multiple falls
  • Mood disorders
  • Substance use
  • Prescription drug interactions

While some illnesses can cause confusion or delirium, such as a urinary tract infection, those cognitive changes usually resolve with treatment for the underlying ailment.

Tips for Boosting Brain Health

What can you and your loved one do to focus on brain fitness? These suggestions are an excellent place to start:

  • Manage chronic health conditions to slow down mental decline. Diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and mood disorders such as depression and anxiety can all lead to cognitive impairment. Following prescribed treatment from a healthcare provider may mean fewer or slower changes.
  • Review medications and their side effects with your loved one’s physician. Sometimes what appears as cognitive impairment may actually be a reaction to medicine.
  • Consider early use of memory medication to slow the progression of cognitive loss from dementia.
  • Ask for a depression screening for your loved one. Depression and other mood disorders can mimic signs of dementia, including mood changes and lack of concentration, and if left untreated, may result in cognitive loss.
  • Emphasize healthy habits such as regular exercise, nutritious foods, and improved sleep. This basic care can translate to enhanced wellbeing for body and mind.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking enough fluids can help your body metabolize medications and allow the brain to function optimally.
  • Limit alcohol intake and stop smoking. A lifetime of smoking and drinking can take a toll on brainpower.
  • Manage stress better. A simple yoga routine, meditation, and journaling are all helpful ways to reduce tension and relax.
  • Stay connected with friends and family members. Humans are social beings, even well into old age. Emphasize social interactions with other seniors, caregivers, or other trusted people to fight off loneliness and isolation.
  • Have fun in whatever way appeals to your loved one. Listening to and moving with music; playing board games or crosswords; painting or drawing; reading or listening to books on tape; and engaging in different beloved hobbies can give seniors a sense of purpose and structured brain activity. Consider other interests your loved one may have and encourage trying something new.

Boosting brain health may not be all fun and games, but it certainly can help to some degree. Think of it this way: any activity that requires thought or problem-solving is like exercise for your brain. If you don’t use it, you may lose it.

Hopefully, these ideas can keep your senior engaged and enriched. It is worth the effort to make positive suggestions and even participate in these brainy endeavors for both you and your loved one, especially when it does not feel like a chore or another task on your caregiving to-do list.

Good luck!



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