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Your Health
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10 Ways to Keep Your Memory Functioning

Changes in the mind require changes in the way things are done

Over the years as a senior health adviser, consultant and trainer, I have heard repeatedly from older persons the terrific concern they have about their minds not working as effectively as they used to. Elders will often tell me that they can’t remember names the way they used to or places they visited or what they went into another room to get. The frustration, embarrassment, anger and self-defeat are often evident when they ask me what they can do about it.

My findings are that “sometimes, not always, and in select situations, a name, date or place is forgotten.” My great concern is that older persons are not appreciating this finding as being the truth in a majority of situations. There are some situations where something more serious is going on that requires further investigation as to the causes.

The real challenge becomes accepting the changes that the elderly face — changes in the mind that require changes in the way things are done. My work has therefore lead me to be a support, adviser and trainer on how both to embrace change and also provide strategies, tools and solutions.

Here are the 10 ways to keep your mind functioning at its highest possible level:

1. New Mindset: Letting go of “I used to be able to” and replacing this old habit with “I do differently today.” This is a process of change and requires time, training and awareness.

2. The 3 R Rule: Release-Replace-Rely. Release the need to know the name in the moment if you don’t. Replace the name with an alternative, such as their description, work or particular characteristics. Rely on other resources that you have to be creative and inventive.

3. Know Your Left Brain from Your Right Brain: Part of the function of the left brain is to deal with names and words. The right brain deals with pictures and symbols. The key to connecting with either the left or the right brain for this work is to ask the appropriate questions. For the left brain it’s “what is the name?” For the right brain it’s “what is the picture?”

4. The M.A.C. Factor: Memory Affecting Circumstances. There are many major factors that interfere with the memory being at its highest possible level of function. Some of the prominent ones are stress, lack of sleep, diet, medications, medical conditions, exercise, information overload and mental activity.

5. S.O.S: Strategies Offer Solutions. Many people have effective strategies that work for memory enhancement. One is using the alphabet to remember names and places. Another is writing down important things on a note pad. Keeping things in the same place at all time including keys, wallet, checkbook or walker is yet another strategy for success. The idea here is to be creative and inventive and willing to do things differently today so life is really working and you are independent.

6. A Lifesaver A.C.T.: This is an important tool for remembering things. First you pay ATTENTION to the thing you want to accomplish, you put your mind to it because it is important to you. Next, you CONCENTRATE on the task at hand. You think and picture where the item is, or the place is or whatever it is that you are focusing on. You think and picture what else may be in the same environment and make associations with it. Then you TAKE ACTION. Often the reason things get lost in our minds is because of information overload.

7. Using All of Your Senses: Another key to aiding in memory is to see, hear, feel, taste and smell. Using all of your known awareness can greatly add to memory function.

8. Five or More Times: This is a key strategy to use for names. Recite the name five or more times when you first meet somebody; make association with their names to people you know or famous people, or rhyme their name with something familiar to you. This, along with making direct eye contact to use all your senses, is a great helper.

9. What are you doing for your body today? This is extremely important because the brain requires 25 percent of the oxygen and blood flow. Therefore physical exercise, weight lifting, stretching, yoga, walking are important responsibilities for every older person to accept and accomplish.

10. What are you doing for your mind today? It is absolutely essential to keep your mind challenged and functioning at its highest possible level. Activities like chess, reading, writing, interactive discussions, taking a foreign language, music and dancing are but a few of very important things to do every day.

Contact Marge Mason’s Adult Day Care, 717 Santecito Drive, at 805.969.3206 or click here for more information.

— H. Elliott Fives is a senior and healthy aging expert for Marge Mason’s Montecito Senior Care and Adult Day Care.

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