My grandma has trouble thinking of common words when speaking but is good at crossword puzzles, how can this be?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 04, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My 74 yr. old mother does crossword puzzles every day, and at a good speed. She has a problem thinking of common words when she's speaking. She always had a fine vocabulary before this started. how can this be?


Expert Answers

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

I think it is great that your mother is trying to stay active and use her brain as she is getting older. However, your question does raise a good issue. Many older persons will be able to do crossword puzzles well, but will have issues with wordfinding when they are speaking. The reason for this is that you are using different parts of your brain to do each task. When you speak, the words you say come from the speech center of your brain. Crossword puzzles do not really use the brain's speech center, unless you are talking to yourself out loud when you are doing the puzzle.

From your question, you do not mention how much "trouble" she has when losing her words. If it is a real problem, it could be a sign of memory loss, a stroke, or dementia. If you think it is an issue, the best thing I can recommend is that your mother be tested for memory and speech issues. Many hospitals have memory centers that can easily do this, or you can take her to see a neurologist. Good luck!