How to Prevent Cognitive Degeneration in Older Adults

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Cognitive degeneration refers to the difficulty with a person’s thinking, memory, concentration, and other brain functions beyond what is typically expected due to ageing.

Cognitive degeneration, also known as cognitive impairment, can come on suddenly or gradually, and it can be permanent or temporary. As we grow older, loss of brain function is a significant concern. Conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease threaten living out your golden years with health and happiness.

Loss of memory

Most senior citizens do have some degree of memory loss. The lock or key may be misplaced for weeks and later found inside the garage. The ice trays that go in the freezer might be in a cabinet in the kitchen. All sorts of unusual placement of items become quite common due to cognitive decline.

Senior citizens with memory loss should make a task list for the day. This will help them remember the things to be done. They should also keep oftenly used items like keys, spacks, remote control, mobile phone etc at a designated place.

But if memory loss gets more, it may be the first symptom of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Struggling to Complete Daily Tasks

As the days pass, completing daily tasks may be a difficult affair. They may forget the way back home. They may even take time to recall their close relatives. And in this stage, they should not be left alone.

Confusion

Confusion and aggression is usually seen in advanced cognitive degeneration. In this stage, arguing with them is not very beneficial. So try to do things that makes them happy. 

Struggling with Visual Coordination

In more advanced stages the ability to interpret visual stimuli gets impaired and they may not process the visual stimuli in front of them. They will not even recognise their children and will lose interest in things they once loved, like watching television, driving, or sewing.

Struggle in speaking coherently or Completing Thoughts

Speaking coherently becomes a concern with the onset of cognitive decline. Senior citizens lose words, the ability to keep their train of thought to complete a sentence, and they often tell the same stories time and again. The part of the brain that controls speech is the left frontal lobe which is badly affected due to cognitive decline.

Deficiency of rational Judgement

A senior citizen’s capability to make rational decisions declines. They may not be able to judge and take a proper decision.

Social Segregation

Over time, these senior citizens prefer to stay at home and if some of them leave home, they usually get lost.

Mood swings

A senior citizen who was always happy and smiling may suddenly become combative and bitter. They have no control in regulating their disruptive behaviour.

Moving without direction and getting lost

Once the cognitive degeneration is in an advanced stage, senior citizens will start moving aimlessly and even forget their homes.

Longing to go back to ancestral home

Most family members will observe that at the advanced stages of dementia a senior citizen wants to go back to their roots. They will ask to go home many times throughout the day, even if they are at home. This signifies that they no longer recognize their surroundings and are very confused by everything they see. At this stage, they no longer recognize many faces or can recall names.

Preventive measures to slow down Cognitive Degeneration

There is no cure, but there are plenty of preventive methods that can help to slow the decline.

Establish regular meditation

Research has proved that senior citizens who pray regularly and read Holy Scriptures have better mental health and sense of accomplishment. Connecting with Creator is the most important modality to slow down cognitive impairment.

Brain Boosting Exercises

Many activities can help to boost the brain. Things like crossword puzzles, sudoku, and jigsaw puzzles are often considered to be the best. Watching news once aday, reading books and listening to light music is also helpful.

Exercises

30 minute exercise/walking per day is always good for overall mental and physical health

Balanced Diet

Plenty of vegetables and fruits. Avoid sugar, salt and fats. Take less rice and rotis.

Older children have to invest time for their ageing parents and rejuvenate their lost spirit. Do not cage senior citizens who are showing the signs of dementia as it will accelerate the degeneration of neurons. 

If your family has a history of such issues, it is best to talk to your doctor. Things like making sure you get enough rest, exercising, social connectivity and adding some supplements to your daily diet can make a big difference.

Dr Zubair Saleem is a Senior Geriatric Consultant and Dr Showkat Rashid Wani is a Senior Coordinator, Directorate of Distance Education, University of Kashmir

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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