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Sheltering Arms Blog

6 Signs of Cognitive Decline & What to do About It


Posted on: November 27, 2019 by Jenny Lankford

By: Caitlin Anzalone, MOTR/L

Let’s start out with an assessment. Gather a piece of paper and something to write with and set a timer for one minute. During this minute, you’re going to think of as many words as you can that start with a certain letter. Try to avoid proper nouns and adding a suffix (i.e. -s, -es, -ing) to a word to make additional words.

Are you ready? Start the timer and think of as many words as you can that start with the letter… F. Go!

How many words did you think of? Eight? Eleven? If you were able to think of more than 11, you received a point! This is a question on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA), a screening tool used by many healthcare professionals to assess cognitive health including short-term memory, visuospatial abilities, executive function, attention, and language.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cognition is the combination of several mental processes including judgment, language, memory recall, the ability to learn new things, and intuition. Cognitive impairment occurs when an individual has trouble with these processes and they begin to affect everyday life tasks. Cognitive impairment is not caused by any single disease or condition and it may occur in varying levels in people of all ages.

Some signs of cognitive decline include:

  • Confusion with regular routine
  • Losing train of thought
  • Short-term memory or attention difficulty
  • Forgetting important events
  • Feeling increasingly overwhelmed in decision making
  • Increased impulsivity

So, what can you do to address these concerns?

  • Modify your everyday tasks and your home environment to allow for optimal independence by:
    • Utilizing adaptive equipment such as a reacher or grabber tool, sock aide, foot funnel, dressing stick, and pill sorter;
    • Identifying hazards at home and reducing risk for falls (i.e. remove throw rugs, decrease clutter, and install railings around stairs);
    • Optimizing safety during everyday tasks with durable medical equipment such as a transfer tub bench, shower chair, grab bars, and rolling walker;
    • Utilizing external memory tools like calendars, timers, and smart phones to compensate for memory difficulties.
  • Engage in cognitive stimulation every day by:
    • Participating in social activities with friends, family, or community-based programs;
    • Challenging your mental health with word searches, puzzles, problem solving games, crossword puzzles, or Sudoku.
  • Maintain physical health for increasing overall strength, endurance, and brain health by:
    • Participating in regular exercise including a local gym or Sheltering Arms membership, swimming, walking groups, and community exercise classes;
    • Adhering to therapy-based home exercise programs if attending physical rehabilitation therapies;
    • Participating in a Sheltering Arms specialized fitness programs like NeuroFit or PowerEx.

If you or your loved one is experiencing cognitive decline, Sheltering Arms offers speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, fitness programs/memberships, and community-recreation services to meet your individual needs. Click here or call (804) 764-1000 to schedule an evaluation today.

Did you enjoy this article? You many also like Four Easy Ways to Improve Your Memory.