Cognitive health is an important but often overlooked aspect of elderly care. Cognitive health is our ability to clearly think, learn and remember. Our cognitive health has an impact on how we can perform everyday activities.
Cognitive health can decline as we age and some people suffer from diseases which affect brain health, such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Evidence is emerging which suggests that the coronavirus pandemic is having an impact on older people’s cognitive health. According to an Age UK report, ‘One in five older people agreed that since the start of lockdown, they are finding it harder to remember things.’ This may be because older people are not able to enjoy the activities and social events they were able to before the pandemic.
This emerging evidence makes it even more important that we make cognitive health an important part of elderly care.
Some factors that affect our brain health cannot be changed. But the good news is there are a lot of things we can do to maintain our cognitive health. Evidence suggests that those who follow a healthy lifestyle reduce the risk of cognitive decline. In fact, taking care of your physical health is one of the best things you can do for your brain.
Follow our tips on nutrition for the elderly and exercise for older people to help support your brain health.
In addition to a healthy lifestyle, there are three other important factors to consider when maintaining cognitive health. These are:
- Getting enough sleep
- Challenging your brain
The health benefits of socialising
Socialising is known to benefit brain health and can lower the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Of course, opportunities for socialising have been deeply affected by the coronavirus pandemic. This is why it is important to make the most of social activities to help older people stay socially connected. (add a link to loneliness in lockdown article once published).
Social activities do not need to be complicated. A simple chat, card game or working with someone on a task such as cooking will help retain cognitive abilities.
Getting enough sleep
Poor or disrupted sleep can contribute to poor memory and cognitive decline. People aged 65 and over need 7-8 hours of sleep at night. Interestingly, too much sleep can be as detrimental as too little.
Follow these tips to help improve your sleep.
- If you or someone you care for are having trouble sleeping, try to develop a regular bedtime and waking routine.
- If you find yourself napping a lot during the day, try to reduce this by doing quiet but absorbing activities when you need to rest.
- Getting some exercise during the day can also help you sleep more soundly at night.
- Make sure your bed is comfortable and replace your mattress, pillows and bedding if they are old or damaged.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine in the evenings as these can affect the quality of your sleep.
- If you are having trouble sleeping because of light or noise then consider using aids such as blackout curtains or a white noise machine.
- Try to relax before bed. Having a warm bath or doing some gentle stretches can help you prepare for a restful night.
- If you find yourself anxious at bedtime, consider doing some meditation or relaxation. There are lots of meditation and relaxation audio tracks available online or you can buy relaxation CDs.
Challenging your brain
Scientists have discovered that building a cognitive reserve can help reduce your risk of cognitive decline. This basically adds up to the old adage, ‘use it or use it’.
While the information on which specific activities improve brain health needs further research, there does seem to be some evidence that activities which focus on memory, reasoning and problem-solving, and speed of processing can lead to improvements in cognitive health.
People who participate in leisure activities such as listening to music, reading, knitting, doing Sudokus and playing card and board games have also been found to experience less cognitive decline.
People who often try to learn new things are less likely to experience cognitive decline than those who rarely do, so picking up a new skill or hobby could be a great way to keep yourself mentally fit.
Elderly care for dementia and cognitive decline
If you are concerned that your loved might be showing symptoms of dementia, then you should speak to their GP as soon as possible. However, if you are just keen to help your older relative stay cognitively healthy then follow the tips above.
For those caring for elderly parents, it is important to bear in mind that encouraging them to live a healthy lifestyle will also improve their mental wellbeing helping them to make the most of their later years.
How Mumby’s can help with elderly care
If you are concerned about cognitive decline in your loved one, we can help.
All staff at Mumby’s Live-in Care are trained in supporting patients with cognitive issues and dementia. However, we also believe it is important to help your loved one enjoy a healthy lifestyle that keeps them physically and mentally fit.
Our carer staff can help support your loved one’s cognitive health by assisting them in living a healthy lifestyle as well as facilitating activities and opportunities to challenge their brains. Having a live-in home companion carer will also mean that your loved one always has company, so they can keep their brains healthy with plenty of social interaction as well as enjoying games and activities with their carer.
We aim to support your loved one in living as independently as possible so they can continue to enjoy all the things they love most about life.