Memory Loss and Lifestyle Choices

“Memory Matters” for ALL Ages  LINK TO PROGRAM 

Sometimes memory glitches will occur when a person is just not up to par. Proper nutrition and hydration, exercise and getting adequate exercise can enhance your ability to focus and pay attention. These are keys to not only memory fitness but successful aging.

Throughout the decades of working with older adults in home health care it has been fairly common to find that these habits are not as strong as they could be. There are things those with limited mobility can do to exercise, sleep may be improved with a change in habits, and healthy eating and  adequate hydration is not at the best possible levels.

1. Sleep: Many of you do not get the amount of sleep needed so you are less likely to be as alert. What happens then is that you do not focus as well and paying attention matters when it comes to remembering. Walking around in a sleep deprived fog does not promote good concentration and without it those car keys may go missing or you forget important appointments or if you took your medication.

2. Nutrition: Your body needs a balanced diet, regular meals and that includes adequate water intake. Many people have no idea how much water they are drinking. One woman felt by drinking 2 pots of coffee each day that she was meeting that need.  Another client was drinking 4 or 5 cans of a cola product each day. In excess caffeine can contribute to dehydration.
Older adults may also be reluctant to drink more fluids because they have trouble getting around or want avoid frequent trips to bathroom. Unless there are  medical reasons to restrict liquid intake, it is important to stay hydrated. One of the signs of dehydration can be increased confusion.
Breakfast is most important meal of the day. It is also essential to follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding limiting salt, sugar or other foods that need to be avoided when taking certain medications.
Something that comes up slowly in many cases are older adults who seem to be failing to thrive. In some cases this can be due to problems with certain food textures, lost or loose fitting dentures or missing teeth. Or there may be foods that are avoided due to swallowing issues and it is important to report this to your doctor so the problem can be assessed early on. Many of my home health clients have benefitted from menu modification tips and swallowing guidelines.

3. Exercise: Your brain needs 20%  of the oxygen but it is only 2% of your body weight. Research repeatedly confirms exercising is one of the essential ingredients for successful aging.

4. Couple of other things:  Alcohol intake in excess and smoking are habits that do not contribute to good health. Remember what good for heart is good for brain.

Some tips to consider:
1. What are your current sleep habits? Do you have the television on when you go to sleep? Are you watching the news prior to going to bed? Perhaps you are having something with caffeine late in the evening. Identify those areas where you might be able to make some needed modifications.   More information on sleep and your memory. 

2. Sometimes it is easier to gradually make just a few changes in your diet over a period of time. Start with picking healthier beverages. Create a healthy breakfast routine and make sure you stock your kitchen with those items. Keep track of the glasses of water you drink. Create a goal of a certain number of glasses half way through the day and then for the rest of the day. If you don’t like the taste of water, flavor it. This technique has been helpful for many of my patients who were poor water drinkers.  More information on healthy food choices .

3.  Keep moving. Inconvenience yourself and take the steps or park the car farther away. Another suggestion is to have a falls and balance assessment, particularly if you have had recent falls or problems with balance. Contact your doctor for a referral. More information on exercise.

Just pick one area and get started. Maybe need to relax more before going to bed, start an exercise class, choose healthier snacks or drink a glass or two more of water.

“Optimal health is a journey taken one step, one habit, and one day at a time.”
Dr. Wayne Scott Andersen

Memory Fitness products by Kathryn Kilpatrick including “Walking the Path to Memory Fitness One Week at a Time.”

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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