Dementia: Neuroplasticity – Are We Overdoing It?

One piece of advice about the brain is: ‘use it or lose it’ to seek neuroplasticity.   However, as we have been cast adrift by the Services in this area we have been  left to find our own ways of helping Maureen’s brain repair itself by developing new neural pathways.. There are lots of  groups or activities that Maureen and I could attend in the community but it is not as simple as that.  Maureen is averse to attending groups that label her, and place her alongside others who have memory issues.  Therefore my approach is to provide in-house cognitive stimulation.

With my background in adult learning I am used to trying to find different ways to get a message across.  However, I have a feeling that on  occasions I may be exposing Maureen to far too much stimulation.  My concern here is that tiredness will lead to frustration and become counterproductive.

If you met Maureen when she has energy you would not believe she had experienced stroke or been diagnosed with mixed dementia.  On most days my intelligent wife is around for significant periods of time.  When she is tired a different woman is in residence.  My task now is to accept that it exhausts her to process, and make sure activity is always followed by rest.

I am generally full of ideas that provide cognitive stimulation.  Early yesterday morning we had our own version of ‘Singing For The Brain’,  a little later on we were speaking in French to each other.  As Maureen slept off our busy morning I decided that we would coast for the remainder of the day.  So I resisted nagging her to respond when the phone rang in the afternoon.   She doesn’t like using the phone at the best of times.  Therefore I respected that she didn’t want to take a call, even though she knew it was probably her son.  As she said: ‘if it’s important they will ring back’.

Each day new possibilities arise for cognitive stimulation, and I have to work with Maureen’s mantra of: ‘slowly slowly catchee monkey’.  Our journey with dementia is not a sprint – it is a marathon. The exciting thing is that in training, on most days, Maureen often achieves a personal best!

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