Boosting the mental abilities in older adults has generated much interest ever since our understanding of brain plasticity began. We now know that, even though advanced age is one of the strongest risk factors for cognitive decline, older adults can undergo cognitive stimulation therapy which allows them to maintain and improve complex thinking processes.
Hello! My name is Chris Núñez from www.chrisnunezpsicologo.com; I have a postgraduate degree in clinical neuropsychologyand work with older adults suffering from normal and pathological aging. In my professional practice, I have seen the amount of time that clinicians invest in the development of cognitive stimulation activities; thus, given the opportunity to use platforms like NeuronUP we should make the most out of it. Read this post until the end and I will give you some tips onhow to perform cognitive stimulation in older adults.
What is cognitive stimulation?
In the first place, it is essential to know what cognitive stimulation is. It is a non-pharmacological intervention which aims to improve the cognitive skills of older adults according to their own capabilities, while improving their overall quality of life. Therefore, cognitive stimulation for older adults is important because it is known that the degree of cognitive decline is associated with a higher level of dependency.
Although cognitive stimulation is not (and should not be) the only treatment for older people with cognitive impairment, it is widely recommended in any care guide. It is essential that neuropsychological evaluation is carried out before starting treatment to identify strengths and weaknesses of the older individual.
Once the assessment has been conducted, elderly individuals can start using NeuronUP ’s worksheets for cognitive stimulation.
I will use an example of a fictitious older adult who has a significant deficit in episodic memory but whose attention ability is preserved, to better illustrate the exercises. To show how NeuronUP can be used, below I have divided up the tips into three phases. Let’s get started!
Tips on cognitive stimulation with NeuronUP
1. Begin with simple exercises
The sessions should always begin with simple exercises for the person; that is, using worksheets to train cognitive processes that the person does not suffer deficits in. Continuing from the above example, if the person preserves the function of attention, then he/she should start with attention-related activities. NeuronUP’s activity Bottle caps is an excellent exercise for this purpose.
2. Move to a more challenging exercise
After a few minutes with an activity that the person can perform to produce positive outcomes (so he/she is motivated), it is necessary to move onto the next cognitive stimulation exercise. Now is the time to introduce a more challenging exercise. But be careful! When choosing the level of difficulty for an activity, it is always better to go from less to more difficult: An activity that the person is unable to complete will not be beneficial in any sense, and can even generate discomfort and frustration.
NeuronUP allows us to accurately adjust the difficulty of an exercise, so it will be easy to maintain the appropriate level for the tasks given to the older adult. The activity Illuminated Windows is perfect for stimulating episodic memory in this population, thus helping us have a more challenging exercise for the fictitious clientof this post.
This phase should continue for 15 to 20 minutes, and should be done daily. NeuronUP allows us to adjust the difficulty of the exercise in the section “select stage”, so it is very important to record it and always start at a level that allows the person to answer correctly, and gradually increase the difficulty.
3. Finish with activities that train long-term memory
The last phase follows the same principle as the first one: Cognitive stimulation exercises should focus on the preserved functions of the client. In general, long-term memory is usually better preserved in older adults with cognitive impairment, so they could finish by completing a game of Hangman.
Using a touch screen or a mouse with the assistance of a therapist are other general suggestions for working with this population.This is especially true in Latin American countries because it is very possible that clientsare not as familiar with computers.
Thank you very much for reading this post for tips on cognitive stimulation with NeuronUP! If you got here, now you know how cognitive stimulation for older adults is performed using NeuronUP. I encourage you to try it. I myself have been using it for the past two years in a nursing home with excellent results. I have also filmed a video regarding this post that you can watch on my YouTube channel: youtube.com/ChrisNunezPsicologo. Below is the link. See you soon!