Strategies for Memory Improvement in Older Adults

Jane S. Saczynski, PhD; George W. Rebok, PhD


Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing eJournal. 2004;4(1) 

In This Article

Memory Interventions

Behavioral intervention studies show that strategies using mnemonics are effective in improving the memory performance of nondemented adults into very old age.[15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22] These studies show that strategy instruction to small groups of volunteers by a trained leader results in benefits for various types of memory performance, including list-learning and name-face memory. Although group and individual volunteer samples show significant improvements in performance following memory training, little work has been done to disseminate behavioral interventions within medical visits. This may be an untapped area for intervention and possibly an effective mode for prevention of further memory complaints/decline.

A potential limitation is the time constraint during the typical medical visit. The mean number of sessions in published intervention studies is approximately 5. However, these sessions are typically administered in group settings and may be reduced in number when conducted in an individual context. Given this, it is feasible to model and practice mnemonic strategies in 2 or 3 sessions.

Despite the encouraging findings of past intervention work, it is important to note that the behavioral strategies for memory improvement provided in this paper are meant to be used by individuals experiencing normal age-related decline in memory performance, not individuals who are exhibiting clear signs of dementia. The approach outlined in this paper requires the successful acquisition and effective use of mnemonic strategies that have been largely ineffective in patients classified as demented.[23,24] For information on behavioral interventions with Alzheimer's patients, the reader is directed to the work of Camp and colleagues,[25] Cahn-Weiner and colleagues,[26] Davis and colleagues,[27] and Yesavage.[28] Interventions in patients with AD often involve basic list memory (3-5 words) and name-face recognition. Although minor benefits in memory are observed following intervention, the effects are not maintained.


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