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Brain Stimulating Activities for Dementia & Alzheimer’s & Helpful Resources for Caregivers

Posted on September 1, 2021 at 6:00 am

Hands putting together a puzzle on a table

By Susan Goertz

COVID-19 has become the perfect petri dish for something to proliferate—dementia. Isolation, lack of social connection and shared interaction, disruption of routine, disruption of eating and sleeping cycles, lack of mental stimulation, increased loneliness, and lack of touch all play a part in development of dementia.

September is World Alzheimer’s Month. So, this seems like an apropos time to examine how we can stave off Alzheimer’s and all the other disorders that fall under the umbrella term of dementia. But what is dementia exactly?

Dementia is an overall term used to describe symptoms that impact memory, performance of daily activities, and communication abilities. The impairment in cognitive function is commonly accompanied, or even preceded, by deterioration in emotional control, social behavior, or motivation.

Luckily, there is hope. A study has shown that lifelong reading and brain-stimulating hobbies can help stave off dementia. This means the materials and resources available from the library can potentially help limit its effects.

“What cognitive skills are affected?” you may wonder. According to BrightFocus Foundation, clinicians tend to look at six areas of cognition when diagnosing dementia, where one or more of these cognitive skills are very impaired:

  • Complex attention refers to the ability to sustain focus and switch between tasks.
  • Learning and memory, which includes recall of recent and more remote events as well as recall of how to do things.
  • Executive function refers to skills, for example, which enable people to plan, organize, remember things, prioritize, or pay attention to tasks.
  • Language includes both expression and understanding in spoken and written forms.
  • Perceptual-motor function is the ability to understand such things as shapes, locations, and directions.
  • Social cognition is the ability to recognize the meaning of others’ facial expressions and behavior so that we can interact successfully.

When thinking of these six areas, I hope you consider using the library’s digital and physical resources to help with brain-stimulating exercises and activities. Here are some ideas!

Reading

You can join our SCLD Online Book Club where you can access each book digitally with Freading.

Book Butler

If you feel like you’ve read every good book out there, try filling out the online Book Butler form with your reading preferences to get a bundle of 3 to 6 book titles in print, curated by our staff. We’ll track down some good reads that are new to you!

Brain Games

Check out our extensive collection books and materials about games, puzzles, and riddles for all ages, all of which are great for brain health. For Queen’s Gambit fans, we have many chess books and the original novel that the Netflix series is based on.

History & Research

Pick a fantasy destination or favorite place from the past and research away! Travel down memory lane with a loved one and a local history book from our Inland Northwest Collection. Or see what you can rediscover with Washington Rural Heritage, with projects for Rockford, Medical Lake, and Moran Prairie Grange.

Hobbies & Crafts

Creativebug

Learn a new craft or hobby with Creativebug or Hobbies & Crafts Reference Center. We also have thousands of online classes to help you learn just about any skillset with Gale Courses and Gale Presents: Udemy.

You can also learn a new language with Pronunciator.

We have books and DVDs to help you learn how to play a musical instrument, from acoustic guitars to ukuleles and everything in between. We even have books that show you how to build your own instruments.

Volunteering

Give volunteering a try. Find a favorite local organization and ask what you can do for them. Some nonprofits even have opportunities for volunteering right from home!

You can cultivate a one-on-one connection with someone when you join a pen pal program. Letter writing is an art that shouldn’t be lost.

Resources for Caregivers

Maybe you are the caregiver for an individual living with dementia or memory loss. Eighty-three percent of the help provided to older adults in the U.S. comes from family members, friends, or other unpaid caregivers. Nearly half of all caregivers who provide help to older adults do so for someone living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.

Loving someone does not make providing them with sufficient care an easy task, especially when you lack financial support or medical training. Often while caring for others, we let ourselves suffer.

The library has a wealth of resources on how to support caregivers as well as those they care for.

Book cover for Dr. Ruth's Guide for the Alzheimer's Caregiver

Guides for specific types of dementia:

General dementia guides:

Self-support guides for caregivers:

You can also find a curated list of eBooks and audiobooks on OverDrive: Alzheimer’s, Dementia & the Brain as You Age.

A Poem to Consider

Poet Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “One Art” seems to elucidate the land of loss and memory, where every corner reveals a sense of something missing, something precious that may never be regained. You can read “One Art” on the Poetry Foundation’s website.

Bishop suggests there is solace in embracing loss. As much as I struggle against the idea, she may be right. Loss is inescapable. Graceful acceptance can bring understanding, rather than fighting against an inevitable tide.

With the help of the library, I hope you are able to find ways to create beautiful memories and connections with others as we resist memory loss and dementia during these times of isolation.

This closing thought is for you, me, and all of us—may we nurture the good, savor the present, and remember each other well.

Susan Goertz

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