Only Elephants Never Forget!
There is no shame in forgetting!
Today, our new 2018 Connections Class openly debated forgetfulness and concluded, both passionately and, at times emotionally, that it is really OK to forget.
As I enter my 70th year I am prepared to admit that I cannot remember everything that I used to recall as a young man, at times almost instantaneously, and with accuracy. My hippocampus must have shrunk a little, but that is the process of normal aging as we enter this new territory! The memory center in our brain may be small but my goodness it is so powerful, which is just one reason why Cathee Stegall (Memory Matters Senior Program Director and Memory Care Specialist) has spent years seeking the best teaching solutions to enable us all to enjoy brain health longevity.
When I was 25 years old I would write a “to do” list on a piece of paper and every morning in my business career I would read it. Every evening I would read it again. When I was 40 years old and running a sizable business I kept a mighty long list, because even then it was possible to forget. We are God’s human beings and we are not perfect.
Now I have technology – Apple iPhone “reminders” to help me and Google Calendar, but I still keep a written ‘to do’ list and, if all else fails, I have my lovely wife Barbara to remind me! As a fall back – I have two sons, their wives and three Grandchildren! Oh yes! Did I mention my overseas sister-in-laws last week?! One English, another Welsh and then, there is the Italian!😉
Cathee has spent considerable time over the past several months updating and rewriting the course work for our Connections class. Just to be clear, Connections is suitable for people with mild memory loss, or an early diagnosis of a dementia. It is a brain stretching class and differs significantly from our Compass program, a social day program for people with mild to moderate degrees of dementia.
Most of the people now attending this 3 hour Connections class are independent people and do not need to rely on someone to bring them to Memory Matters. For the most part they themselves have chosen to attend Connections because they want to learn and practice the memory loss interventions that we promote and teach.
Today was such a great Brain day!
Cathee’s mantra is Show Up! Trust Me!
We first developed a list of around 50 synonyms for the word “happiness” and debated them. The class then explained why some of their words were lateral in context, ranging from joyful to elated or ecstatic, and relaxed to song. This was but the prelude for a much deeper conversation.
Cathee asked everyone to write down their thoughts and responses to these eight statements.
SUBJECT: MY INTENTIONS FOR GOOD BRAIN HEALTH
- Increase involvement in mentally stimulating activities.
- Engage in better nutritional habits.
- Increase physical activity.
- Socialize more with optimistic people.
- Learn how to decrease stress in a variety of ways.
- Use memory enhancement techniques.
- Use humor often in everyday life.
- Celebrate all you can do rather than focusing on what you can no longer do.
The written responses were openly and at times emotionally debated but in a most supportive way. The class participants were there for each other. The responses to statement 4 in particular are profound. At Memory Matters we call this a “mission moment”. It can be quite moving for the staff and volunteers.
In the same order as the eight statements above here is a précis of both written and spoken words: (A quick thank you to my good friends and volunteers Judy and Bob for helping me pull together the salient points)
- Puzzles, bookclub, bridge, music, go to Memory Matters.
- No sugar, no snacking, healthy habits, good food often based on the Mediterranean lifestyle ingredients and cooking. Make sure your vitamin B12 level is adequate.
- Exercise, walk, gym, get oxygen to the brain.
- Hang with the winners! Don’t be around people who “Nega-talk”.
1/2 full is better than 1/2 empty. Don’t let people say: “I told you that before”! Telling people they do not remember leads to anger, frustration, a feeling of being attacked and its degrading and leads to a feeling of shame. It is flat out wrong. There is nothing wrong about forgetting. We have a right to forget. Forgetting is a great opportunity to learn again or learn something new! Walk over the negative. Stop saying “don’t you remember “? Instead accept your memory loss and forgive.
- Amen! Exercise, yoga, be positive! Hang with the winners again.
- Lists, and learn how to forget the forgets! Every problem is an opportunity.
- Laugh, have fun and live in the “now” moment.
- Be an optimist. Power of positive thinking. Love what you remember and smile.
During the interaction between Cathee, class members and volunteers one gentleman said this:
When my short term memory began to deteriorate I noticed that my wife would ask me about a task or phone call that I was supposed to make and I would draw a blank and my wife would say “ But I told you that”. I did not like the way I felt when my wife would say “I told you”, so we made an agreement to drop that phrase “ I Told You That” from our conversation and instead silently agree to forgive the forgetting that we each did.
No, there is no shame in forgetting. It’s normal and to be cherished along with other aspects of our lives on earth. As one class member remarked, (with passion), “What you forget is an opportunity to learn”!
I realize that I have just written an upbeat chronicle and my passion for Memory Matters is considerable. Some of the people in the class today have had an early diagnosis of a dementia, but they are brave, and have decided to seek our help. That means they “show up and trust Cathee”. So for perfect clarification and transparency let me add that we know that Alzheimer’s is the disease still with no cure, but until there is a cure – there is Memory Matters. A great 20 year old not-for-profit organization with experienced, caring and professional staff supported by over 100 volunteers.
If you found this blog interesting and you believe we might be able to help you or a loved one, or a friend, then please do not be afraid, call us at 1 843 842 6688. All calls and free memory screening are treated confidentially.