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Recall and Reaction in Aging

In addition to slower processing speeds, normal cognitive decline in seniors may show up in recall and reaction speed. Information seems to linger on the tip of your parent's tongue. The senior may know the answer to a question but cannot quite pull it out of his mental filing cabinet. Reaction time may be slowed.

This may have implications for performance on some activities that require quick decisions or changes in attention. One such activity is driving. The age-related cognitive decline should be mild and shouldn't interfere with day to day functioning.

Normal aging also may bring decline in vision and hearing abilities. A senior who has difficulty with seeing or hearing may also have resulting difficulty in learning information. This may appear as cognitive decline when it is in fact not. Whenever possible, the use of hearing aids or glasses should remedy these difficulties.

Mild Cognitive Impairment

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is progressive memory loss or processing that generally happens after age 50 and is beyond what is expected with normal age-related cognitive decline.

However, MCI does not meet the list of criteria needed for a specific dementia diagnosis. A senior who has mild cognitive impairment may show signs of memory deficits that are more than expected for her age or education level while other cognitive functioning remains normal.

Also, generally, activities of daily living are completed independently and in normal fashion. Sometimes MCI is a term used in the medical field when no specific dementia diagnosis has been rendered, but symptoms have become much more distinctly obvious to family members.

Holiday Memories

Have you ever thought that you really should write down memories and stories shared by your aging parents or grandparents? Recording memories is a great way to extend your listening ear to an aging loved one. Sharing shows you are interested in their past and what has created the person they are today.

With busy schedules, well intended visits may become rushed. You never quite get around to sitting and listening, much less recording what is shared. The holiday season is a great opportunity to weave in time for sharing memories.

Often seniors are interested in sharing their traditions. Traditions such as hanging lights on a tree, decorating cookies, lighting the menorah, or making latkes together are some common memories shared by families.

Many times holiday traditions are rooted not only in religion, but also in culture. They may serve as a link to the country of your grandparent's origin. Consider weaving in their experiences while creating your own family traditions.

Evoking Holiday Senses with the Elderly

Smells, textures, sounds, and sights are changing for an elderly person. Loved ones with dementia may even be experiencing feelings and emotions of childhood.

What did your loved one like to do as a child? Evoking the senses may be a way to tap into your loved one's world. A simple yet wonderful activity is making cookies. Stimulate the feeling of touch by squishing the dough through your hands to form shapes. If you use spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg, allow your loved one to smell them.

Bring out creativity and use frosting and sprinkles to decorate together. Talk about the shapes and colors. Tapping into senses is a way to communicate without words.