February 1

Your Brain Matters

By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions

As we age, occasional forgetfulness and lapses in our memory is normal, noted Stephanie Morris as she discussed Why We Forget during an educational program she recently conducted at Cambridge House of O’Fallon. We might forget where we placed our car keys or glasses or find it more difficult to quickly remember the right word to use.

Cambridge House of O’Fallon is one of three Cambridge House affordable assisted living communities that Gardant manages in the St. Louis Metro East area.

Stephanie is with HealthPRO – Heritage, which makes physical, occupational and speech therapy services available to residents of all three Cambridge House communities.

There are many reasons we forget, she said. For instance, she told those in attendance that she realized shortly before the program started that she had forgotten to do something simple; she had forgotten to put on her name badge. One of the reasons why, she said, “was my mind was so busy attending to other details.” Absent-mindedness can often be caused by just trying to do too much. The other, she said, was nerves. Forgetfulness can be a consequence of anxiety and stress, including the jittery feeling many people experience when having to speak to a group of people.

Outside distractions also can cause forgetfulness because we are not giving our undivided attention to what someone is saying or what we are doing. I long ago lost count to the number of times I forgot something my wife just told me because I was trying to listen to her and to what is on the television or radio at the same time.

Other reasons for forgetfulness and mental confusion include a lack of sleep, the side effects of medications, depression, urinary tract infections and some thyroid, kidney and liver disorders.

One of the best things you can do, Stephanie stressed, is to keep your mind active. Get out of your apartment and socialize. You are not using your brain if all you do is stay isolated in your apartment. Sitting for hours in front of the television is not very stimulating. 

She encouraged :

  • Participating in exercises to improve attention and memory. The Alzheimer’s Association indicates the following websites have free on-line games and activities:’

    www.braingle.com
    https://aarp.brainhq.com
    www.jigzone.com
    http://cognitivelabs.com/game_list.htm

  • Eliminating distractions. Go some place quiet, so you can hear clearly what is being said.
  • Asking for information to be repeated, especially if your mind happened to wander for a few moments.
  • Associating something you want to remember with a sensory characteristic such as a shape, taste, smell, sound or color.
  • Elaborating why what you want to remember means so much to you.
  • Using different color inks, so that what you may want to remember most stands out differently. 

Physical exercise also is good for your brain health. Exercise improves the flow of blood to your brain. It also stimulates the release of chemicals that cause us to feel happy and calm.

Stephanie stressed that if you do have a concern about your memory, do not wait to tell someone. The sooner you let a family member, friend, doctor or other health professional know, the better chance there is to address the issue.

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