improve senior memory

7 Ways to Improve a Senior’s Memory

A senior’s memory function is a quality of life issue for both the senior and their family. 

Of all the joys that come with preparing meals, leading activities, and encouraging independence, perhaps nothing comes close to the gratification received when a resident shows progress with memory skills. 

As administrators and employees, we carry out many activities each day to enrich the lives of seniors living under our care. 

Residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFE’s) are often where seniors experiencing memory issues end up as they need the extra help with activities of daily living or ADL’s.

As an RCFE administrator, it is important to understand what memory loss can mean to seniors and their families. While no two seniors are the same, memory changes are also different for each individual. As an RCFE administrator, it is your responsibility to provide an environment where residents can continue to function as an individual yet receive assistance from qualified staff as needed.

There are many effective measures RCFE administrators and staff members can take to help enhance the memory abilities of their residents. 

These actions are not complicated and in fact, build on many things you are already doing to make your seniors’ lives more rewarding.

As you help residents with their cognitive health, brain health, remember to focus on their interests and allow them to retain as much independence as possible in the process. 

Strategies for Addressing Memory Issues in an Assisted Living Facility

Most of the approaches to helping seniors boost memory involve the areas of physical health, learning activities, social pursuits, and positive attitudes. 

An assisted living community provides a great opportunity for the RCFE administrator to implement measures that promote memory enhancement since most facilities already address nutrition, exercise, activities, and social opportunities in the current programming. 

Here are seven ways you can help provide memory retention in your community:  

  1. Offer meals that are both tasty and healthy

When you pursued assisted living certification, you learned how to plan menus and prepare delicious meals that meet the nutritional needs of the residents. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, many vegetables and fruits, healthy fats, and herbs can help maximize memory as well as contribute to physical health. Your seniors can also enjoy sampling tasty new options as the seasons change.

  1. Provide multiple ways for residents to ditch their sedentary lifestyle and become more mobile

Many seniors residing in a California RCFE already participate in daily exercise that can help improve memory. These residents tend to appreciate things like organized exercise classes and outdoor walks. Indoor activities such as easy yoga classes are also enjoyable for beginners and those that prefer not to go outside. 

The seniors at your facility may have played golf, tennis, or even basketball in their younger years. 

Think of ways to rekindle their love of sports with croquet, corn hole, or free-throw contests. Yard games, group walks, or park activities provide excellent methods to get everyone involved, especially those who tend to just sit in a chair most of the time.

  1. Help everyone get adequate sleep

Many researchers agree that an adequate night’s sleep is vital to an older individual’s memory and recall process. Think about how much easier learning a new skill or studying for online assisted living administrator courses becomes when you get an uninterrupted night of sleep. The same is true for the residents of your RCFE who want to learn new information.

While you can’t magically develop better sleep habits for your seniors or force them to make changes, you can encourage them the same ways you would introduce any new activity:

  • Schedule a short talk about sleep issues, perhaps bringing in a nurse or sleep professional.
  • Show an entertaining group video about improving sleep.
  • Provide handouts for residents to voluntarily track sleep progress and then meet as a group to discuss progress together.
  • Plan an activity for seniors to make easy changes to their rooms, such as eliminating any blue lights, that can help with quality sleep.
  1. Encourage proactive memory prompts

Most people make good use of calendars, planners, and lists of things they want to accomplish. When seniors retire or downsize to a new residence, however, they sometimes stop making use of these memory helpers. 

One simple activity is to review how these aids can help, as well as introduce digital versions for smartphones, tablets, or computers.

  1. Plan learning activities

The more residents you serve in your facility, the greater the diversity of interests and skills. Whether you work one on one with your seniors or in groups, try to offer a variety of fun learning opportunities:

  • Courses, such as learning to speak a new language or play a recorder
  • Hobbies of every type, from easy model-building to crocheting or drawing
  • Group singing and learning new songs
  • Cooking skills and discovering new recipes
  • Individual or group puzzle-solving, such as jigsaw puzzles, word searches, or Sudoku
  1. Encourage social opportunities and pursuits

The need for socializing varies with each individual senior, but making friends and interacting with others generally improves the quality of life and encourages memories. Residents who are shy may prefer small groups.

While seniors may not have the social opportunities they normally would due to COVID-19 restrictions, activities like reading, word searches, puzzles, journaling, coloring, and crafts are all great person-centered activities that can keep the mind stimulated. Additional activities include: 

  • Book clubs and card clubs
  • Volunteering at churches, food pantries, or museums
  • Knitting circles or whittling clubs
  • Field trips
  1. Develop a positive, relaxing environment

Attitude is everything when it comes to memory skills. Looking on the bright side not only makes life more pleasant but can also help prevent stress-induced memory loss. When seniors become anxious or stressed, the body causes cortisol levels to surge, resulting in memory deterioration as they age.

Everyone can use reminders to express positive feelings and encourage others, and staff training is a good place to begin. 

Hang inspirational posters in community areas, and if space is available, set aside a quiet room or corner space for private moments. Playing low-volume, calming music during meals or at special times can also be helpful.

Share the Joy of Sharpening a Senior’s Memory

An assisted living community provides the ideal environment to promote memory care through healthy lifestyles, new experiences, mental activities, and social opportunities. 

While these strategies cannot solve all memory issues, they may boost some memory skills and add meaning to the daily lives of your residents.

If you would like to learn more about assisted living administrator certification or our online assisted living administrator courses, contact us today.

People Also Ask: 

Is it normal for a senior to be forgetful? 

Lapses in memory could be considered a normal part of aging. There are many changes that happen to all parts of the body as people age. Age-related memory changes can be one of them. 

About Assisted Living Education
Assisted Living Education has been operating in and improving the growing senior care industry for over 15 years. Founded by certified RCFE administrators, Jane Van Dyke-Perez and Bill Perez, we have licensed more than 1,100 assisted living facilities and built close relationships with the California Department of Social Services, assisted living managers, owners and industry professionals. As senior living care educators ourselves, we strive to contribute our knowledge and skills to continually improve senior care and the satisfaction of those working in the industry.