Mental Empowerment

In recent decades, scientists have recognized the value of non-drug therapies aimed to preserve the highest possible level of autonomy and quality of life of elderly people.

The interest in the implementation of programs for boosting elderly people’s mental capacity is the result of studies arguing that participation in various mental activities has a positive effect on cognitive functions such as memory, judgment, speech, concentration, abstract thinking, while reducing the likelihood of developing cognitive impairment and dementia in later life. Among the changes that occur in elderly people is the reduction of the speed of information processing and the reduction of the amount of information that an elderly person can hold.

Studies have shown that participation of the elderly in mental empowerment programs resulted in improved cognitive function that continued after 2 to 5 years. Elderly people may experience acute cognitive impairment due to acute brain damage. The two most common reasons for such mental deduction are the traumatic brain injury and the stroke. In these cases, cognitive interventions have been shown to be effective in the improvement of memory and other cognitive functions like speech, concentration and behavior. Nevertheless memory deduction is primarily observed in patients with dementia where mental strength techniques have proven highly effective.

These techniques are intended primarily to stabilize, and in some cases even to improve patient’s condition for a certain time. Studies have shown that the inclusion of patients with Alzheimer’s disease in exercise programs have positive cognitive effect and improvement, and also present improvement in the performance of daily activities (Wilson j al, 2009).

Cognitive empowerment aims to improve or stabilize the patient’s cognitive status. It includes a wide variety of activities, such as regular learning and re-learning information (names of people, names of objects), orientation, training to use mnemonic devices (eg. notebook, calendar), etc. To perform these exercises it is required the use of computers, paper and pencil, painting activities, etc. Plus there are numerous studies confirming that thanks to extensive environmental stimulation programs that offer mental empowerment can achieve reactivation of the degenerated brain cells, thereby improve both the cognitive abilities and patient’s general quality of life.

Programs of mental health exercises for patients with dementia are offered exclusively in structures such as day centers for dementia patients operating under the liability of local Alzheimer association, and from non-profit organizations operating in about 20 cities throughout Greece. There, patients are able to participate in daily exercises programs that aim to their socialization and maintenance of their independence and autonomy for as long as possible. Groups of health professionals, psychologists, social workers, nurses, and physicians set goals, organize and conducts groups and sets individual cognitive empowerment programs. But generally at European level regarding elderly people, it is sought the creation of innovative applications through the use of new technologies, to contribute to the intellectual empowerment of older age persons.

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