Brian Training and Exercises For Family Caregivers and Their Loved Ones

Are there benefits of using MemVu for caregivers and their loved ones with cognitive impairment?

We hope so, but we are in the process of gathering data to answer that question. There are numerous brain fitness programs in the marketplace, but very few of them focus on helping caregivers remain engaged with their loved ones. At MemVu, one of our major goals is to increase/improve the connection between family members when dementia or another brain health condition begins to take a loved one away. With that in mind, our games are designed to both help people with cognitive impairment function as well as possible for as long as possible, and also to provide games that help keep family relationships strong.

To improve or maintain patient and family outcomes, our games center on facial recognition, way finding and currency recognition. Our patent pending facial recognition game allows people with a brain health condition to use the faces of family and friends to help remain cognitively engaged. Family members visiting with loved ones can then use the games to help remind their loved one of past and present people and important events from their lives. Other games assist families with everyday tasks for the loved one that is still at home and mobile. Way finding helps individuals recognize their own residence and familiar settings, whether it is going to the mailbox or the local store. Currency recognition helps family members assist their loved one with the ability to recognize different types of currency and how to use currency in everyday life.

Brain Health Conditions Resulting in Cognitive Impairment

Dementia refers to the decline and eventual loss of cognitive function. Disrupted functions can include problems with long and short term memory, difficulty maintaining attention, and failure to think logically and plan for the future. The most common dementia is Alzheimer's disease, but dementia can also result from strokes, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Huntington’s or conditions such as alcoholism, HIV, traumatic brain injury and chemotherapy. The types of cognitive impairment may differ based on the original condition, but most dementias will cause similar impairment once the patient is beyond the mild stage.

Doctors and dementia researchers commonly divide dementia into three distinct stages; Mild, Moderate and Severe. Each stage is associated with a different level of function and differing abilities in carrying out normal daily activities. To determine the level of severity in dementia doctors use neurocognitive evaluations, dementia scales and also interview the patients and their family members. The three levels of severity are described below.

Mild dementia: The person remains capable of performing most activities of daily living and continues to live independently. It is common for people in this stage to misplace familiar objects, begin to have difficultly following complex directions, and show impairment in social functioning.

Moderate dementia: In this stage, memory loss has become so severe that the person can no longer live independently. Only a small amount of routine behaviors remain. The individual will experience difficulty in retaining new information, as well as in remembering personal history such as the names (or faces) of loved ones.

Severe dementia: In the severe stage, virtually no new information is retained and nearly all previous knowledge has been forgotten. The patient commonly fails to recognize even close family members, becomes easily confused, and must be cared for 24 hours a day for their own safety.

Impact of Dementia on Families

Dementia

Due to the inevitable and often times slow progression of dementia, the process of dealing with the disease greatly impacts the patient and their family. The vast majority of dementia caregiving is conducted by family members, and family relationships are commonly disrupted as the disease progresses. Beyond the major tasks of assisting with dressing, cooking, paying bills and buying groceries, family caregivers also experience stress for other reasons. For spousal caregivers, issues may include grief over the loss of previously enjoyed joint activities or stress related to taking on unfamiliar tasks that the patient is no longer able to complete. Child and grandchild caregivers may experience stress related to the role reversal common to caring for a loved one who previously cared for you. The progression of the disease itself also causes increased stress, as patients must rely more and more heavily on caregivers to assist them with basic life tasks. This increased reliance often disrupts the life of the caregiver in unexpected and unpredictable ways. For most families, placement of their loved one into a nursing home becomes the best way to provide 24 hour care for the patient. However, even placement is associated with a number of stresses. For example, sometimes the chosen facility is a great distance from where the caregiving family lives and visitation becomes difficult. For others, worries about the care of the patient within the facility replace the previous worries associated with caregiving at home.

Again, one of our major goals is to increase/improve the connection between family members when dementia or another brain health condition begins to take a loved one away.