September 14, 2022

Caregiver reading with senior woman

Finding ways to improve memory can help us as we get older.

Remember memorizing the order of the colors of the rainbow in elementary school? Many of us were introduced to Roy G. Biv to master this feat – among the many mnemonics we learn that, surprisingly, often stay with us for life.

As we grow older, some degree of memory impairment is to be expected, and naturally it’s much more pronounced when Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia is a factor. Medical researchers are constantly aiming to identify effective techniques to improve memory and cognitive functioning and have discovered some intriguing findings on “old school” strategies such as mnemonics. Here’s what they have most recently discovered:


Mnemonics provides an association to a memory through a song, phrase, abbreviation, etc. This sort of training revealed remarkable results in increasing activity in parts of the brain that are impacted by dementia, producing increased retention of information.

You can discover limitless mnemonic strategies that are highly effective in improving memory. For example, try mnemonic keywords. They are an enjoyable and creative option to memorize words in another language. Mnemonics involves choosing a word that is like the new word you want to learn and visualizing a picture that brings the two words together. As an example, if you’re attempting to remember that chapeau is French for the term “hat,” you can picture Charlie Chaplin and his infamous black hat. The “Chap” part of his name can trigger the first letters in chapeau, and the memory will stick.

Spaced Retrieval Training

This tactic involves slowly increasing the period of time between memory tests and was found to be highly successful for those with Alzheimer’s. In comparison to mnemonics, however, there was actually a decrease in brain activity, leading medical researchers to determine that the information had been processed more efficiently.

Spaced retrieval training is extremely useful for enhancing independence and minimizing anxiety for those with cognitive challenges. Choose a desired activity or event for the person to keep in mind, such as a lunch date with a buddy on Friday. First ask the person a question to find out if the memory is already in place. If not, remind them they are having lunch with Sally on Friday. Wait 15 seconds, and ask the individual the question again. If the memory is in place now, double the time to 30 seconds, and inquire again, continuing to increase the time and ask again. In the event that the person doesn’t remember after 15 seconds, keep repeating the process every 15 seconds several more times before determining whether this is not an effective technique, at least not with this particular event or activity.

Both tactics are simple, drug-free techniques to incorporate into the treatment plan for a person during the early stages of Alzheimer’s, or even for anyone who is seeking approaches to improve memory.

Let Continuum, a trusted provider of companion home care in St. Louis, MO and the surrounding communities, offer further support and resources for someone you love with Alzheimer’s. Our innovative techniques to caregiving help maximize an older adult’s cognitive functioning, independence, and quality of life. Reach out to us at (314) 863-9912 or (636) 861-3336 for additional information.