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Preventing Cognitive Decline in Long-Term Care Residents

Emily Potts Dec 21, 2020 2:00:32 AM

With so many older adults being isolated this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to prevent them from cognitive decline. Here are six tips to keep them engaged, according to Cognitive Aging: Progress in Understanding and Opportunities for Action, a report published by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, Medicine. 

1. Stay Physically Active 

Keep older residents physically engaged. Walking and simple exercises can be enough for many older adults. Dr. Dan Blazer, chair of the report and professor emeritus of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center says, “The best evidence we see in terms of maintaining and improving cognitive function is exercise.” On top of helping with cognitive decline, it also prevents many other health issues later in life. 

2. Discourage Unhealthy Habits

Diet is everything. Encourage seniors to cut down on carbs and sugar and provide heart healthy foods like leafy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats. A bad diet contributes to cardiovascular risks like high blood pressure and diabetes which can damage tiny vessels in the brain, impacting the way it ages. 

3. Manage Medications

“Older adults are sometimes on more medications than they need to be on,” Blazer says. Many, if not all of them, can potentially affect your cognitive functioning.” Check the side effects linked to the drugs, especially sleep medications which are known to impact cognitive function. 

4. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep deprivation can be a major contributing factor in cognitive health. Help establish a nightly routine for residents to ensure they get a better night’s sleep. 

5. Engage Brain Stimulation

Encourage residents to read or play games like solitaire to keep their brains active. Seniors can join virtual book clubs or participate in virtual museum tours. 

6. Social Interaction

Although many seniors are isolated now due to COVID-19, there are many ways to keep them socially engaged. Ask family members to create a social calendar and schedule calls with friends and other family members. Have a holiday sing-along in your community and invite their families to participate virtually or outside their windows. Give them something to look forward to this holiday season. 

Learn how VirtuSense is helping reduce cognitive decline here.