If you have worked with, lived with, or known someone with memory loss or Alzheimer?s disease, you know that it can be very difficult to help these individuals maintain their independence, let alone reach their therapy goals. This online course will discuss some of the important findings in the recent research on aging, cognitive functioning, memory, and the physical environment, and directly apply these findings to effective interventions for treatment planning for older adults. In addition, this course reviews the value and importance of conducting thorough assessments and developing individualized interventions that serve to maximize each resident?s potential for functioning and participation. By conducting an assessment that includes the environment on all levels of functioning, the environment can be structured to allow clients to maximize functioning based on their preserved abilities. By approaching clients? needs in this manner, they can have positive outcomes such as improved physical fitness, increased caloric intake, increased independence during activities of daily living, and improved conversational abilities.
Please allow at least 3 hours of quiet, uninterrupted time to complete this online program. You will need some paper and a pen or pencil. As you progress through the course you will be asked to complete exercises in order to apply the information presented and improve understanding and retention of the information. Please do not skip the written exercises as completing them is an integral part of the course. At the end of the course there is a list of recommended reading that will improve your knowledge and enhance your understanding of the material, and a reference list of the research and resources cited.
Memory and Aging
How do "successful agers" spend their day?
List 3 activities that you consider to be components of successful aging.
Which of these activities do you incorporate into your daily therapeutic treatment sessions?
After interviewing many people who are aging successfully, the MacArthur Foundation discovered how some people sustain their mental ability as they age (Rowe & Kahn, 1998).
- Participate in mental games and exercises such as crossword puzzles and scrabble
- Engage in regular conversation
- Visit others and talk about current events regularly
- Play bridge, pinochle and other card games
- Read on a daily basis
- Baby sit for grandchildren
- Write letters often
- Volunteer weekly
- Work part time
- Help to take care of someone?s pet
What do we know about our aging brains?
Do all older adults loose cognitive functioning?
We have all heard people referring to having a "senior moment" when they forget someone?s name or have misplaced their keys. In fact, this doesn?t just happen to older adults. All people that lead busy lives, try to remember every detail without writing it down, and may be under stress at home or at work, are going to be less effective at remembering information. In addition to stress, there are a number of conditions that can cause diminished cognitive functioning in any individual. Most of these conditions such as infections, vitamin deficiency, depression, and reaction to medication can be effectively treated and do not usually cause permanent cognitive impairment.
Older adults do differ from younger adults in the way they perform under distracting conditions. Older adults are unable to do many things at once, and have difficulty or filtering out irrelevant stimuli from the task at hand (Rowe & Kahn, 1998). There are some mental processes that do slow with age, but others that do not. If one asks healthy older adults, they may say that they are aware of having trouble remembering new things or feel that they are slowing down mentally. In general, younger individuals will perform better on memory tests than older individuals, but research has found that this is not caused by the effect of aging, but by disparities in health and socioeconomic status.
The MacArthur study points out that there are two brain functions that do decline with age-explicit memory and the speed of information processing. Explicit memory is characterized by the intention and capability to remember a certain location, name, or number on demand. So, older adults may find themselves in situations where they cannot think of a phone number or person?s name with which they are very familiar. Other types of memory, such as procedural memory, which involves habits and overly learned behaviors that one relies on in daily activities, does not seem to decline with age.
The rate at which the brain processes information slows and therefore older adults need to compensate with additional attentiveness and endurance. The reason for this slowing is not clearly understood, but the reduction in speed is not so significant that it interferes with daily life functioning. Typically, one does not have to process or compute things very quickly in one?s daily routine. When asked, older adults will say that they are aware of this slowing when they are completing complex tasks, so it just takes them longer to complete the task and they have to concentrate more.
Can cognitive decline be avoided?