Memory Changes Beyond Normal Aging: Staying Engaged

As a speech-language pathologist I have the opportunity to see many adults, some in the prime of their life, who are experiencing Mild Cognitive Impairment or more significant problems. Because I am involved in home health care, I enter their daily routine and can readily learn what they do to keep mentally active. Frequently those adults who used to have hobbies, belonged to organizations, liked to read or do puzzles and word games, just to name a few, have become increasingly inactive. Often they are unable to do what they used to do and so they do less and less. Many times I have seen a patient with mild to moderate dementia who can become engaged in some of those activities.

First of all you have to take into consideration if an activity might compromise their safety. Next learn more about what interests the person.  Sometimes a hearing or vision loss or decreased mobility can influence a person’s ability to participate. It is about meeting the person where they are and knowing their strengths and modifying activities. Recently several of my clients with moderate deficits were able to do some brain teasers with extra hints. Educating families and caregivers in how to incorporate these activities appropriately can make such a difference. Without them, many of these options would not be possible. The satisfaction of seeing a person who was formerly not engaging in activities being able to enjoy a simpler activity related to their interests is very heartwarming.

My mom and I played Scrabble since I was in grade school and when she started having difficulty we still played but we became very lenient with the rules. We used little word cheat sheets and looked up words. Sometimes we would play without keeping score. There were times when she spelled words that were not correct but who cared. We were not in school. We had fun anyway. Isn’t that what it is all about?

What would you want someone to do for you if you were unable to participate in activity you enjoy?  What if you loved going to programs where there was music or a speaker and you could not hear well? What if your vision was seriously impaired and you previously did sewing or woodworking? What if your memory had declined to the point where you could not remember what people told you in a few minutes?

Spend some time reflecting on how you would want others to be there for you and think of someone you could reach out to and enhance a few hours of their day.

“Infinitely more important than sharing one’s material wealth
is sharing the wealth of ourselves — our time and energy,
our passion and commitment, and, above all, our love.”
William E. Simon

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About Kathryn Kilpatrick

Kathryn Kilpatrick received her Master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology in 1968 from the University of Massachusetts. She has worked in a variety of settings, primarily in Ohio, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and for decades in the area of home health care. Kathryn is president of Memory Fitness Matters ( and Communication Connection( She offers memory coaching for all ages and has a geriatric consulting practice. She is a national motivational speaker and author of more than 30 products to enhance communication and connection as well as a Memory Fitness Toolkit. Kathryn brings her decades of experience as a speech-language pathologist to all those wanting to enhance their quality of life, particularly when there are communication, memory and cognitive challenges. Her websites offer information on a wide variety of topics related to elder care concerns as well as memory fitness and successful aging.
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