How to Strengthen Cognitive Function for the Elderly

Caregiver helping old lady

Physical, mental, and behavioral changes are a natural part of aging. You may start to notice these changes in an elderly loved one, especially when you are close to them. Of course, this entails you to exercise sensitivity and make lifestyle adjustments. Older adults may require specific needs, such as dietary routines, medication, or assistance with basic activities.

There are many aspects of elderly care you need to be mindful of. While people often place more emphasis on physical health, brain health is just as important. Learn how to strengthen cognitive function for the elderly by practicing the following in their lifestyle.

What is Cognitive Function?

Though its scope is vast, cognitive function is a general term that refers to a person’s ability to think, remember, learn, make decisions, solve problems, and more. Cognitive health is not to be confused with the term “mental health,” as the latter is more relevant to one’s emotional and social well-being. However, both fall under the much broader spectrum of brain health.

Components of Brain Health

The brain affects almost every aspect of a person, from their sensory encounters to overall condition. Since the body actively relies on it, it is vital to consider all the various components of brain health when you’re caring for an older adult. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Cognitive function, which refers to one’s thinking and learning ability, as well as concentration, memory, logical reasoning, and processing speed.
  • Emotional function, which refers to how one experiences, manages, and responds to their emotions.
  • Motor function or motor behavior, which refers to one’s ability to move voluntarily and involuntarily.

Brain functions are also responsible for one’s social and behavioral dispositions, which are developed over time. Certain conditions, however, can alter the way a person thinks and acts. This is often especially true for the elderly who are more vulnerable to cognitive challenges. 

Cognitive Function in Older Adults

Aging comes with changes in the body. Studies have shown that certain parts of the brain can change in size, volume, and matter. Additionally, blood flow and nerve cell coordination may deteriorate. These will consequently affect the brain’s function and ability to respond. 

Because of this, there is a higher likelihood of cognitive decline in older adults. This can entail a few key differences in their behavior. For instance, they may have trouble remembering things or keeping their attention span. You might also notice mood changes that were not present before. 

Unfortunately, these may also be signs of certain mood or neurological disorders, including depression, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke. Due to inevitable changes in the brain, elderly people are more prone to illnesses ranging from mild cognitive impairment to more serious cases. This makes it necessary to ensure holistic care for elderly loved ones now more than ever. 

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How to Improve Cognitive Function in Elderly People

Cognitive changes are not something to be afraid of. However, it is necessary to find a shift in one’s lifestyle not only as a preventive measure, but as a way to ease the difficulties that come with these changes. Here are some ways you can strengthen and sustain an elderly loved one’s cognitive function.

Maintain a Balanced and Healthy Diet

Eating habits have a deep, long-term impact on the body—and this isn’t something exclusive to elderly adults. People have been taught at a young age to incorporate nutritious food in their diet. However, seniors must take their diet more seriously as age tends to contribute to more health concerns.

A popular healthy diet that can boost cognitive function is the Mediterranean diet. It consists of plant-based meals, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, and healthy fats. According to experts, these foods can help lower rates of dementia, memory loss, and other kinds of cognitive impairment. They are also known to decrease the risk of heart disease and stabilize blood sugar.

Keep the Body Physically Active Through Exercise

It’s a well-known fact that movement boosts one’s physical health. Older adults who exercise regularly are less likely to encounter complications such as diabetes, arthritis, and hypertension or high blood pressure. And to add to the already-long list of benefits, staying physically active also does wonders for one’s cognitive health.

The deterioration of brain health and coordination is one of the reasons for cognitive function failure. However, certain physical activities like aerobics are proven to increase the size of the hippocampus—the part of the brain responsible for memory. More research has also revealed that exercise can help ease the symptoms of mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Stimulate the Mind 

A decline in brain health doesn’t equate to the loss of ability to practice and pick up new skills. One of the best ways to keep one’s mind active is by keeping the brain stimulated through “brain exercises.” Just as it’s important to keep the body moving, it’s just as important to keep cognitive abilities engaged.

Easy but effective stimulating activities include reading, solving puzzles, and playing card games. They may even find enjoyment in learning new things through classes—or even teaching their passions and interests to an enthusiastic companion. Challenging the mind in healthy ways can result in an improved cognitive function.

Encourage Social Participation

Everyone enjoys and benefits from constant, meaningful interactions with friends and family. This is especially true for elderly people, who may be spending more time in isolation and away from loved ones. Being deprived of these necessary connections can cause loneliness, anxiety, and even a lower self-esteem. It may also contribute to a decline in cognitive health.

Participating in social events and interactions allows more opportunities for older adults to enrich their lives. This may be something as simple as regular family visits, to more routine-based pastimes such as book clubs or volunteering for community efforts. Keeping the mind engaged with others will aid in improving overall health.

Be Mindful of Their Mental Health

For better or for worse, going through adjustments due to age affects one’s life—and the lives of everyone around them. Guilt, shame, frustration, and other negative emotions can cause stress, which can have a profound impact on an elderly loved one’s well-being.

Poor mental health is among the biggest risk factors in cognitive decline. Fortunately, this is manageable as long as you’re cognizant of your elderly loved one’s emotional needs. Encourage them to maintain a healthy daily routine so that they can preserve a sense of security. Make sure they are regularly surrounded with company. And, finally, don’t hesitate to get professional help if it’s needed.

Give Your Loved Ones the Support They Deserve with Care Partners

Knowing how to strengthen cognitive function for the elderly ensures their wellness and happiness. However, you need to be mindful of when to provide professional support. Home care is one of the most ideal and beneficial services you can rely on, since it allows your loved one to have a helping hand—and even a shoulder to lean on. 

Reach out to us for further assessing and consulting about your loved one’s needs, or call us at (888) 336-7761.