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Whether a congenital issue or an acquired one, chronic illnesses of any type are difficult with which to cope. Such illnesses often cause a significant decrease in the affected individual’s ability to function in any capacity, particularly cognitively. However, a number of options or activities are available that help stimulate cognitive functioning and help individuals regain and maintain that functioning and independence. Here is a list of games and activities that can help.
Common Chronic Illnesses
The most important thing to remember if you or a loved one is coping with a chronic illness is that you are not alone. While the world of chronic issues seems like a vast, lonely space, the reality is that there are a huge number of individuals dealing with or experiencing the same difficulties. While traumatic brain injury or TBI is among the most prevalent chronic illness, there are number of others that also contribute to the diminished health of the general population. Alzheimer’s disease and stroke are among the most prevalent chronic diseases that affect today’s population.
What You Can Do
Cognition specifically involves the act of knowing or thinking and includes an individual’s ability to choose, understand, remember, and utilize information. When an individual experiences a traumatic brain injury or other chronic condition that affects cognition, he or she typically loses his or her capacity to effectively focus, concentrate, process and understand information, recall information, communicate, plan, organize, assemble, and reason or make sound judgments. However, certain activities can be used to redevelop these skills and abilities.
Activities that involve multiple areas of the brain engage thinking skills and enhance brain connections. To help your loved one improve his or her cognitive function, we suggest that you try a number of different games or activities. Such engagement can help the individual recall forgotten skills and improve brain activity.
Games That Activate the Brain
Following a TBI, many individuals experience problems with problem-solving, planning, reasoning, attaining and recalling information, speech and language development, concentration, and attention. Certain activities can help develop these skills and abilities.
Activities that activate the brain and help individuals with chronic illnesses improve developmentally include:
-Math word problems
The Brain Body Connection
A great deal of research has been done in recent years to identify and parallel the connection between the brain and body. This development is particularly important for those individuals who have been identified as stroke victims. Research suggests that an individual responds to a visual stimulus by activating movement, so if a patient who has suffered a stroke is show images or visuals of a task that he or she has had a difficult time completing, he will be more likely to redevelop these skills. This data supports the idea that exercise and physical activity are particularly effective for rehabilitating individuals who have suffered strokes.
As such a variety of active exercises and activities are effective for improving the physical and cognitive functioning of individuals who have had strokes including:
Activities and Active Engagement
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological condition that causes the loss of brain cells and a steady decline in cognitive function. As such, it is particularly important for individuals who have been diagnosed with or are at risk for Alzheimer’s to actively engage their brains. Activities are a way to structure and organize time and to maintain effective function, as they activate the neural pathways and promote retention as well as development.
A number of different activities are effective for supporting effective cognitive functioning and memory stimulation for those who have Alzheimer’s including:
-Playing an instrument
-Doing crossword puzzles
-Finding and using coupons for shopping
-Taking photographs and creating a scrapbook or collage
-Planting seeds or taking care of plants
The goal when organizing and planning activities for individuals with chronic illnesses is to find something enjoyable that also helps to promote thinking, physical activity, and development. A study called the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly, or ACTIVE, demonstrated that brain-training or regular brain stimulation or exercises helped individuals maintain improvements in reasoning and processing for 10 years or more. That information illustrates how important it is for individuals with chronic illnesses to maintain an active lifestyle that incorporates a variety of cognitively developed and related activities.
While those activities may look different for different individuals, the focus is using the brain to actively gather and process information. We have listed suggested activities in specific categories; however, that is not to say a game of dominoes isn’t just as helpful or beneficial for an individual who has suffered a TBI and vice versa.
We would love to hear about your favorite brain-training activities?