Helping Seniors Stay Positive May Help Memory

April 6, 2011
Helping Our Senior Parents Re-Discover Hobbies May Help Memories

Sometimes, seniors who live alone with infrequent outside stimulation may become emotionally distraught over a small, minor thing and then become forgetful during that agitated state.

In a study by Rush University Medical Center researchers found that people who are easily distressed and have more negative emotions are more likely to develop memory problems than more easygoing people.

And, researchers have found that adults tend to deal with negative emotions and distress the same way throughout their adult lives. Perhaps once a “Nervous Nellie”, always a “Nervous Nellie”.

The findings in the studies suggested that chronic experience of stress affects the area of the brain that governs stress response and there is a suggestion that people who are easily distressed may be more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than easygoing people.

Robert S. Wilson, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist at Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, noted that those who most often experience negative emotions such as depression and anxiety were 40 percent more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those who were least prone to negative emotions.

So, in the instance where a senior fixates their attention on minor issues and cannot seem to change their focus to more positive thinking, adult children can offer diversions and other mood-changing activities.

Can We Coax Our Parents Out of a Funk?

Outside activities and companionship may help lessen the occurrences or the immensity of the magnitude of the agitated condition. Some suggestions include:

• Reintroducing a favorite hobby or activity.

• Visiting neighborhood senior centers and exploring the activities, day trips and events that may be offered.   In the Houston-area, senior groups at the local YMCA offer exercise programs, senior luncheons and other .

• Inviting a treasured friend or family member over for lunch or an evening of dominoes.

• Consider hiring a caregiver to accompany your parent on shopping trips or other activities that may seem like a chore to your parent.

Finally, you may want to explore the possibility of a medical condition that could be causing an overly distraught reaction to minor issues. Schedule a thorough medical examination for your parent in order to rule out any other causes of changes in mood or increased anxiety.

Do you have a favorite activity that helps your parent focus on the glass being half full? If so, please share your story in our caregiver forum.

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