Every day, Grandma and I review the basics: today’s date, whether it’s 9 am or pm, why she takes Warfarin. I remind her other people in the house like “the kid” and “somebody” have names. Most days she gives me grocery lists of things she already has.
Sometimes Grandma knows her memory is failing her. On those days I wish I could jump in a time machine and take her back a decade or so to stave off her memory loss. Each time I play guess-which-common-household-item Grandma’s trying to describe, I wish I’d known lifestyle choices play such a big role in how well we remember things. Now that I’m aware, I’m incorporating as many as I can into my own routine:
Lay off the liquor
Grandma’s never been a big drinker, so I doubt this is her problem. This one’s going to be tough to adhere to, but the memory loss research I’ve been doing gives me new motivation to reduce my wine intake.
Flex that hippocampus
Exercise stimulates the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus, your brain’s memory gatekeeper. So while your goal may be outward beauty, every trip to the gym also boosts your brain’s short-term, long-term and spatial memory.
Eat your bloody broccoli
After almost five decades of resistance, I give up. I’m assimilating with the pro-broccoli borg. For those of us who hate it, there’s a cruel irony in how gross broccoli tastes and how good it is for you. Luckily, a lot of other foods are memory boosters too.
Last night we dined on deviled eggs, parmesan edamame sauted in olive oil, more olive oil on the salad, black bean and sweet potato burritos and lemon blueberry trifle for dessert — a delicious family dinner that included six memory friendly foods. I now keep a picture of the memory-boosting shopping list on my phone — in case I forget what’s on it.
Minimize your meds
This is a tough one. Your doctor prescribes medication to improve your health, but the medication she prescribes may carry with it side effects that negatively affect your health. I’m not a doctor, and I’d never advise Grandma to go off her meds. But I see a direct correlation between her Warfarin usage and her confusion level, which isn’t surprising given that decreased blood flow to the brain contributes to age-related memory loss.
There are loads of brain exercises you can do to keep your memory sharp. Unfortunately, a lot of them require good eyesight, dexterity or a valid driver’s license, none of which Grandma possesses. The doctor’s already told her she’ll be taking Warfarin the rest of her life. As for mobility and diet — she’s made conscious, stubborn choices to be sedentary and eat crap, and they’re coming back to haunt her. It’s cliche, but if she’d known she was going to live this long, she’d have taken better care of herself.
At this point the best I can do for her is fill in gaps in her ever-shrinking memory. And try like hell to preserve my own.