Memory and Focus

Many people have problems with memory and focus as they age.  Whether the problems are the beginning stages of dementia or just a lack of focus, the following exercise can help to ensure that aging has less power to rob you of precious memories.  In addition, this exercise provides a possible solution for insomnia.

1.  Focus on the events of the day in order from arising in the morning until you go to sleep. The good news is that you will fall asleep long before you reach the end of the day.

2.  During the process, visualize each step of the day.  The process should include all activities, conversations, thoughts and individuals met during the day.  It might be seen as a video recording of the day played back only in your brain.  Focus on details.

3.  Initially, the mind video will be playing in fast forward.  It will be difficult to pick out the small details such as thinking over your today list or looking in the mirror while brushing one’s teeth.  In addition, scenes may jump out of sequence from morning to afternoon and then back to getting out of bed.  However, your goal is to play the video in sequence.

4.  As you continue the exercise several days in a row, you should begin to see some differences.  That which was once a just big chunk of time will begin to develop into fully visualized scenes, which include people, conversations, room decor, signs and thoughts.  Details will become clearer.

5.  It should become a daily challenge to remember more of the day.  You will become more aware of the things you normally would have done without much thought.  Since you know you must recall, your focus changes.  You are using brain cells not previously harnessed.  While the nighttime exercises may be a cure for insomnia, the daytime exercises help you to focus, improve your memory, and lower the chances of developing dementia.

By improving one’s daytime focus and recalling events of the day, it is possible for people to avoid memory loss and dementia.  Additionally, these activities can help with insomnia.

The ideas in this article are adapted from a blog on how to become a better chess player, but certainly seem appropriate for anyone concerned with dementia and having problems with memory and focus.


A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post on Alzheimer’s disease (AD) research and the need for volunteers. I had heard nurse practitioner, Alice Brown, from Georgetown University Medical Center speak on Research in Alzheimer’s Disease: Hope for the Future. She is part of the Memory Disorders Program at Georgetown. There are many such programs across the country. Click here for a list of others. At Georgetown alone, there are at least seven research trials for which volunteers are needed. By volunteers, they mean everyone, including normal people. The trend in research is to identify people at risk for developing AD before they even show symptoms of the disease. AD does not develop overnight and pathology is present in the brain long before any signs or symptoms appear.

Alzheimer’s disease is the third most expensive disease in the US after cancer and cardiovascular disease and the fifth leading cause of death in those over 65. But not counted in the cost is the hours and hours of caregiver burden. We also know that age is the biggest factor in AD, but after that the major risk is a positive family history of the disease. Offspring of an individual with AD have a higher risk of getting AD as they age — about 30% compared to 10% of the general population of the same age.

Here is what current research is targeting:

  • Immune system — rid the body of toxic beta amyloid protein that form plaques (a known cause of AD)
    • Vaccines that allow the body to develop its own antibodies (active immunity)
    • Infusions that provide the body with antibodies within the infusion (passive immunity)
  • Brain repair — Nerve Growth Factor
    • Targets microglia — immune cells in the brain — to reproduce and repair the damage caused by beta amyloid
  • Inflammation — presumes inflammatory changes produce cell death and neuronal loss
  • Biomarkers – to help predict who may or may not develop AD and helps determine earlier targets for therapy
    • Cerebral spinal final (spinal tap — LP)
    • Imaging (MRI and PET)
  • Diabetes — questions regarding the role of insulin in brain function and metabolism

Brown stressed that the greatest barrier to progress in research is not enough volunteers and getting people to the location where the study is being conducted. If a study can’t recruit enough subjects or it takes a long time, then it will take longer to complete a trial and analyze results. Other problems are funding and the location of the study site.

For more information on the Georgetown program, check out this Web site — In a future post, we will look at the exciting, new findings.

Keeping in mind that there are no clear-cut boundaries that separate the stages of Alzheimer’s, we now move on to more obvious signs — Alzheimer’s Disease: Stage 4 Moderate Cognitive Decline. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, through a careful medical interview, the following deficiencies can be identified.

  • Decreased knowledge of recent occasions or current events
  • Impaired ability to perform challenging mental arithmetic-for example, to count backward from 75 by 7s
  • Decreased capacity to perform complex tasks, such as planning dinner for guests, paying bills and managing finances
  • Reduced memory of personal history
  • The affected individual may seem subdued and withdrawn, especially in socially or mentally challenging situations

Going back to the couple in my last post, I mentioned that she took an extraordinary amount of time preparing instant coffee. I can only imagine that planning a dinner for guests would no longer be possible. In the case of him, he did not remember my stopping him to check on his shoes. In retrospect, I should’ve brought the other pair of shoes to him right away to see if it was his. However, since he insisted it was his shoes, I let it go. But had I brought him the other pair of shoes, I never would’ve had the opportunity to sit down and talk to him in his home. Everything happens for a reason.