Various exercises to buffer the deterioration of cognitive functions in older people.
As with our physical capacity or performance, over the years, our psychological abilities decline due to age-specific neuronal degeneration. If we add to this the possibility of suffering a neurodegenerative disease, these functions are still more affected.
With the intention of delaying or delaying this cognitive decline over time, experts in the field of neurology have devised a series of cognitive stimulation exercises that can help people maintain or improve their mental abilities.
What is cognitive stimulation?
Cognitive stimulation exercises consist of a whole series of tasks or activities that have been designed with the aim of protecting, maintaining or even improving cognitive functions, since these tend to worsen over the years.
For this, the mental health expert can design a structured stimulation program that adapts to the needs of the person and through activities that exercise functions such as memory, attention, perception, concentration, language production and functions. executive, it can enhance or maintain their cognitive functions “in shape”, as well as slow down the cognitive deterioration produced by age or by some type of neurodegenerative disease.
Over the years, our body changes and degenerates. This degeneration, which takes place very slowly and progressively, affects both our physical and psychological capacities and intensifies with the appearance of any form of neurodegenerative condition.
In neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s type dementias, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases or Friedreich’s ataxias, they cause the progressive death of neuronal tissue, which has dire consequences for both physical health of the person, as the cognitive functioning of this.
In these specific cases, although cognitive stimulation exercises cannot stop the progression of the disease, to some extent they can slow it down, and also make it easier for the person to lead the least dependent life possible.
To be able to carry out this cognitive stimulation effectively, the functions that the person still retains must be encouraged or enhanced, since if we try to recover a function that has completely disappeared, the only thing we can achieve is to increase the levels of frustration of the patient. patient.
If, otherwise, we exercise the functions that are still active, in addition to regenerating or making the functioning of these skills prosper, the patient’s self-esteem and the feeling of self-efficacy will also improve, which will be reflected as an improvement in the patient’s quality of life. .
With the intention of creating a program as adjusted to the specific needs of the person, before starting the treatment, the professional must carry out an evaluation of the state of the patient’s cognitive abilities to then establish objectives and design an adequate program to achieve these.
In which cases can it be practiced?
The design of cognitive stimulation exercise programs are designed to intervene and act on the usual demands or needs that usually appear over the years or with the appearance of a neurodegenerative disease.
The most common cases that require these types of activities include:
- Prevention of cognitive degeneration.
- Memory alterations, losses and forgetfulness.
- Slow down the development of dementia in mild or early stages.
- Executive functions problems.
- Prevention of falls, improvement of motor coordination and praxis.
- Alteration of the spatio-temporal orientation.
- Maintenance of language and communication skills.
- Promote alertness and reasoning.
- Maintenance of visuoperceptive, visuospatial and visuoconstructive functions.
- Cognitive symptomatology of depressive disorders.
- Cognitive stimulation exercises.
There are countless games, tasks or activities that can serve as cognitive stimulation exercises. Although some of them are traditional games, commonly associated with the training of agility or mental skills, many others have been specially created for this purpose.
Among some of these activities we find:
1. Reading and writing exercises
The simple fact of maintaining some reading habits, as well as writing in a journal or transcribing some texts, can help protect and enhance creativity and attention, as well as work memory processes.
2. Traditional board games
Some traditional board games such as Parcheesi, playing cards or dominoes, in addition to promoting social interactions, have a large number of benefits when it comes to training cognitive skills.
Some of the functions or skills exercised are attention and concentration, working memory and short-term memory or critical thinking and flexibility of thought, since it is necessary to change strategies as the game progresses.
3. Drawing and painting
In addition to being an extremely relaxing activity, drawing and painting exercises exercise creativity and concentration and are also very motivating for the person.
4. Crosswords, sudoku puzzles and word searches
The main advantage of these types of activities is that they are practically infinite, this means that the person can increase the level of difficulty of the exercises and thus develop more and more aspects such as perception, memory processes, logic and analysis. deductive, planning strategies, working memory, coordination and patience.
The tangram is a traditional game of Chinese origin in which by rearranging geometric pieces, the person must manage to form a series of pre-established shapes.
Thanks to this original game, the person can exercise skills such as visual-perceptual capacity, visuospatial orientation, attention and concentration, the capacity for abstraction, cognitive flexibility, creativity and motor skills.
6. Exercise: How many are there?
In this game, the patient is presented with a series of geometric figures, made up of other figures with the same characteristics. Next you are asked to count how many geometric figures there are in all.
With this activity, it is possible to enhance attention and concentration, visual-perceptual capacity, planning or perseverance.
7. Exercise: “The word search engine”
In this activity, the person is asked to create new words from a list of words already given. Thanks to it, we can exercise attention span, planning ability and reading skills or those associated with vocabulary and vocabulary.
8. Exercise: “One hundred grid”
In general, all mathematical activities can be useful to exercise cognitive functions. In the “100 Grid” exercise, the person is presented with a grid with numbers from one to one hundred and asked to perform a series of operations with them.
Through this and other mathematical exercises, attention and concentration skills, visual-perceptual ability, calculation and cognitive flexibility are exercised.