Seniors who are cooped up at home for long periods of time can become emotionally distraught over the smallest things and become forgetful as a result. Outside activities and companionship may make a difference for those seniors who are easily distressed and experiencing negative emotions.
Q. My 80-year-old mother who lives alone sometimes gets herself so worked up over things that suddenly she can’t remember anything and then become nearly incapacitated. Have you ever heard of such a behavior?
Yes, we have heard of such a condition, and research also confirms its existence. A study earlier this year from Rush University Medical Center found that people who are easily distressed and have more negative emotions are more likely to develop memory problems than more easygoing people.
In commenting about the study, author Robert S. Wilson, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist at Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, said: “People differ in how they tend to experience and deal with negative emotions and psychological distress, and the way people respond tends to stay the same throughout their adult lives.
“These findings suggest that, over a lifetime, chronic experience of stress affects the area of the brain that governs stress response. Unfortunately, that part of the brain also regulates memory.” An earlier study by Wilson and his colleagues showed that people who are easily distressed also are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than more easygoing people.
The recent study found that those who most often experience negative emotions such as depression and anxiety were 40 percent more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those who were least prone to negative emotions.
So there is medical evidence which may explain what’s happening to your mother. Has your mom had a medical examination lately? If not, maybe it’s time for a check-up. Does she have much contact with the outside world? Does she have any friends?
Perhaps your mom needs a few outside diversions to get her mind off of what she perceives to be the negative aspects of her life. Why not try to interest her in a few activities in the community that she might enjoy? Is there a senior center in her community? They often plan activities just for older adults.
If your mom can’t get out, why not invite family and friends over to visit? Or, if there aren’t many people she knows in your area, consider contacting a home-care company such as your local Home Instead Senior Care® office. Home Instead CAREGiversSM are screened, trained, bonded and insured, and could help your mom tune into the more positive side of life.