Stroke patients who experience poor memory or impaired thinking may benefit from cognitive exercises.
You’re about to discover some effective cognitive exercises for stroke patients that you can do at home.
Let’s start with a quick explanation of why these exercises are important during recovery.
How to Improve Memory and Thinking with Cognitive Exercises
Cognitive exercise can help sharpen your memory and thinking, but need to be practiced consistently. Consistency is key for neuroplasticity, which is how the brain heals after stroke.
Although memory may be impaired due to the damage from stroke, neuroplasticity allows the brain to heal and recuperate. Specifically, it allows the brain to form new neural networks and rewire itself to heal from the damage.
The brain develops and strengthens neural pathways based on the patterns that you repeatedly practice. That’s why therapists recommend you to do specific exercises repeatedly. The repetitive stimulation helps rewire the brain and improve those skills.
The more you practice cognitive exercises, the more your memory and thinking may improve.
If you need help with cognitive rehabilitation after a stroke, it’s a good idea to work with a speech-language pathologist. These experts can help diagnose your problem areas and create a treatment plan just for you.
Recovery is more successful working with a therapist at least once a week, then practicing cognitive training exercises on your own between sessions.
Cognitive Training Exercises for Stroke Patients
The following cognitive training exercises can help stroke patients improve their critical thinking skills.
Choose the activities that resonate with you and practice them on a regular basis. Consistency is key to rewiring the brain to recover cognitive skills needed for daily life.
Here are some great cognitive training exercises:
1. Card Matching
Card matching is a visual memory game that helps with recall and scanning.
For this cognitive exercise, place a deck of cards face down, spacing them out on a table in front of you. Then, uncover two cards at a time. Try to find matching pairs. You cannot uncover more than two cards at a time. Each time you uncover a pair, you must return them to a face-down position. This challenges you to remember where different cards are.
2. Visual/Spatial Processing Games
While designing your cognitive therapy regimen, it’s important to include activities that exercise your visual/spatial processing. This includes tasks that challenge you to identify visual differences and how they are positioned in a space.
The What’s the Difference app is a great example. It challenges you to find one small difference between two otherwise identical pictures. You can use this app as part of your cognitive therapy regimen.
3. Alphabetize Sentences
For analytical reasoning as a cognitive exercises, all you need is a pen and paper and some reading material.
Take a sentence, and write it down. Then, re-write the words in alphabetical order. This sequencing is a therapeutic activity for the brain.
4. Count Money
This cognitive exercise helps with quantitative reasoning. Place a handful of varied coins on a table. Gather 10-20 random coins and count the total value. Counting will help stimulate the brain and improve cognitive function.
5. Brain Teasers
“Brain teasers” like Sudoku, word searches, and crossword puzzles are excellent cognitive exercises for stroke patients. They are challenging and can improve your analytical and quantitative reasoning.
6. Simon Memory Game
The classic game of Simon is effective cognitive therapy for stroke patients, and focuses memory skills.
The device highlights a pattern, and you must recall the pattern. It starts with a short sequence and grows longer each time.
7. Board Games
Classic board games and card games are great cognitive exercises for stroke recovery.
To stimulate the cognitive skills of scanning, deductive reasoning, split attention and organization, consider Checkers, Connect Four, Rumikub, Mahjong, Rush Hour, Set, Blink, Spot It, or Qwirkle.
8. Strategy Games
If you don’t have any games lying around the house, you can check online for some free options. For example, Games for the Brain has an abundance of online games for you to try. Generally, games that require memory or strategy can double as great cognitive therapy.
9. Cognitive Therapy Apps
Cognitive therapy apps, like the CT Speech & Cognitive Therapy App is specifically designed for stroke survivors.
The cognitive exercises in this app were designed by Speech-Language Pathologists (therapists in speech and cognitive therapy). They include everything from visual/spatial processing to quantitative reasoning, and more.
10. Meditation Apps
Meditation has been shown to help stroke patients improve cognitive function as well as reduce stress and anxiety. Specifically, it improves the cognitive skills of attention, mental flexibility, and information processing.
There are many apps or YouTube resources that guide you through meditation or provide relaxing music. Your brain can only think of one thing at a time and when you can redirect your thoughts to something positive, it reduces your stress level and promotes clear thinking.
For example, Aura is a meditation app that gives you a different guided meditation every day. YouTube has multiple videos for guided imagery meditation for sleep, anxiety, and healing.
Getting Help with Cognitive Training After Stroke
If any of the cognitive training exercises above resonate with you, try to practice them on a regular basis. Repetition is key to recover after stroke, including cognitive rehabilitation.
Consider therapy with a speech-language pathologist that can create a custom regimen that targets your problem areas.
If you do not have access to a therapist, try using an app created by speech-language pathologists, like the CT Speech & Cognitive Training App.
As long as you’re doing something therapeutic for your brain on a regular basis, you can maximize your chances of recovery.