Stroke patients that struggle with 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. Then, we’ll get straight to the activities.
How to Improve Memory and Thinking with Cognitive Exercises
Cognitive exercise can help sharpen your memory and thinking, but only when they are 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 bounce back from the damage.
The brain develops and strengthens neural pathways based on the patterns that you repeatedly practice. That’s why therapists ask you to do specific exercises over and over. The repetitive stimulation helps rewire the brain and improve those skills.
The more you practice cognitive exercises, the more your memory and thinking will improve.
If you need help with cognitive rehabilitation after stroke, it’s a good idea to work with a speech-language pathologist. These experts can help diagnose your problem areas and help create a treatment plan just for you.
It often works best to train alongside a therapist at least once a week and then practice 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 and recovering cognitive skills long-term.
Here are some great cognitive training exercises to start with:
1. Card Matching
Card matching is a visual memory game that helps with recall.
To do this cognitive exercise, take a deck of cards and place them face down. 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 place them back face-down. This challenges you to remember where different cards are.
2. Visuospatial Processing Games
While designing your cognitive therapy regimen, it’s important to include activities that exercise your visuospatial processing. This includes tasks that challenge you to identify visual differences.
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
You’ll work on analytical reasoning with this cognitive exercises. All you need is a pen and paper and some text, like this article!
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. If you have some loose change lying around the house, gather it together and pour it on a table. Then, gather 10-20 random coins together and count the total value. This 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 help improve your analytical and quantitative reasoning.
6. Simon Memory Game
Simon is a classic game that can double as effective cognitive therapy for stroke patients, especially those working on memory skills.
The device highlights a pattern, and you must recall the pattern. It starts with a short sequence and grows longer each time. Here’s a quick video that shows how it works:
The fun quality of the game makes this even better for cognitive therapy since consistency is key.
7. Board Games
Classic board games can also double as great cognitive exercises for stroke recovery.
If you have any board games lying around the house, like checkers or Connect Four, they could serve as cognitive training. They help stimulate the brain’s problem-solving skills.
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 (experts in speech and cognitive therapy). They include everything from visuospatial processing to quantitative reasoning, and more.
10. Meditation Apps
Meditation has been shown to help stroke patients improve cognitive function. Specifically, it help improve attention, mental flexibility, and information processing, which are all important cognitive skills.
While it can be hard to get yourself to meditate, there are many apps that make it easier. For example, Aura is a meditation app that gives you a different guided meditation every day.
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.
Hopefully you can work alongside a speech-language pathologist that can help create a custom exercise regimen that targets your problem areas.
If you do not have access to a therapist, then 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.