Improve Your Memory: Play Word Games

One of the changes with normal aging is some increased difficulty in word finding. How often do you feel frustrated when not able to recall a word you need whether it is a commonly used or one that you have not used for quite some time? Sometimes it can also be the name of a person or a specific place.  It is on the tip of your tongue but does not come to you until later.  What can you do about it?

I remember when my mom began to have trouble with word retrieval. I often referred to her as Mrs. Webster’s dictionary because of her excellent command of the English language. She proofread most of my books and was an amazing Scrabble player so word substitutions were not anything she ever needed. Eventually she got better at accepting that option and she even used some gestures which floored me because she always felt I talked too much with my hands. Whatever works to keep someone connected with others is a good thing.

I had a patient with Alzheimer’s disease who got so upset when she could not get the word she wanted that she would call herself dummy. I remember explaining to her the benefits of going in the back door and describing the item or finding a substitute. Putting herself down was adding to her stress which makes recall for any of us more difficult. After a few therapy sessions of practicing this technique the word dummy totally disappeared and she was finding another way to get her point across.


Take advantage of the games that are available that are fun ways to practice word retrieval skills.  Taboo, Anomia and Blurt are a few and just use them as practice cards at first. Perhaps then you find you want to read the rules and play the game.
This week when you are reading, periodically find a substitute for one of the less common words you come across. Open the dictionary, point to a word on a page and find other ways to convey its meaning. When you are stuck, don’t spend time putting yourself down. Find another way to say what you want. Develop the skill and it will be something you can fall back on when the word you need just escapes you for the moment in conversations.

Achievement seems to be connected with action.
Successful men and women keep moving.
They make mistakes, but they don’t quit
. Conrad Hilton

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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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