Different approaches are used in individuals with just the beginnings of memory loss, where an early screen such as MemCheck can be extremely helpful, and later stages, where different memory centers are targeted and individuals are trying to re-learn.
Harry Shultz vividly recalls the day he met his wife, Harriet, more than 60 years ago, "I took my friends over to see her in my car, and all of a sudden it switched around. She was going with me."
But, what Harry can't remember is how to pay his bills. He suffers from the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease, but a new program is helping Harry improve his short-term memory.
Cognitive Rehabilitation uses real-life skills to target different areas of the brain. One exercise helps patients link names with faces by more than 100 percent. Another improved patients' ability to make change by more than 70 percent.
A recent study by neuropsychologist David Loewenstein showed mental exercises like crossword puzzles did not improve memory in Alzheimer's patients, but the targeted exercises had a big impact, "People with Alzheimer's Disease can learn. You just have to present them with the type of tasks that bypass certain areas of the brain, which are problematic for these individuals."
As part of the Cognitive Rehabilitation program patients were required to bring a family member. Harry brought Harriet, "We help each other. I probably help her more with dishes and stuff like that." Harry's happy to hold onto those small memories.
The patients in the study met with therapists twice a week for 45 minutes over three months. Both groups also took standard medications to treat their disease.
Doctor Loewenstein says the greatest benefit of the Cognitive Rehab program is there are no side effects.