LOVE IS IN THE AIR!

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Love is in the air!

One of my Grandkids celebrated his 3rd birthday last Saturday and his family and friends were there to demonstrate their love and celebrate with him. We are fortunate that all our family lives locally, so my eldest Grandson, seen in the picture, and my Grand Daughter were also present to share in the fun. All three of my Grandkids have spent time in the Memory Matters program and classes. The elder two especially have become regular volunteers when school is out and are proud to have their own name badges now. When you witness the kids with our participants you can feel the love that young and old create in a palpable way.

As I reflected on the birthday party I looked ahead to Valentine’s Day this week, and as a Memory Matters volunteer looked back at a terrific first five weeks this year. I have continued to attend both our Compass Program and newly refined Connections Class and  I like what I see and hear.

Memory Matters has also been gearing up for our annual Board and Staff retreat where we review progress against the strategic initiatives put in place last year. As a precursor we recently concluded a thoughtful look at a series of questions that included our perceived “values”. Not surprisingly “Passion” and Dedication” were high on the list, but one person concluded that our principal value is “Love”, yes, with a capital “L”!

I was also reminded today about love being in the air when I read an article by Maria Shriver, the well known TV personality who is the leader of an organization called “The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement””

It is worth remembering that of the 5.4 million Americans who suffer Alzheimer’s, 3.2 million are women! Here is what Maria said:

What I do know for sure is that we all need love. We all crave that feeling. And yet, we don’t always know when someone is really in need of it most.

We never know what someone is going through or what they are feeling at any given moment. That’s why the best way to approach every person or situation in our lives is with love.

Love is a gift. In fact, it’s the best gift that each of us can give to one another. That’s not just true on Valentine’s Day. It’s true each and every day.

As my readers know, the amazing people who attend our Connections Classes are there because “they want to  show up and trust Cathee” (our Senior Program Director and Memory Care Specialist).  They want to keep their brains engaged and stimulated with not just socialization, but healthy debate, and leaning new things. This group of achievers are definitely learning and it is evident that they love doing so!

Since studying the “Art of Forgetting” (my last blog) a few weeks ago our Thursday Connections class has debated the true meaning of optimism, taken a personality test and shared things they enjoy doing and the reasons why. They have shown compassion in the way they help and support each other in our failure free environment. I loved that  at home they were encouraging their care givers or spouses to not complain if they forgot something! Some of them said that they encouraged forgiveness.

This group of people debated why, if they were an animal, they would in most cases choose to be a dog! The conclusion was that dogs are focused, go after what they want, are smart, and would be loved unconditionally!

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They also debated what it was like to be 15 years old, 30 years old and then, what it is like to be 65 plus. I could write a small book on this conversation, but suffice to say that eagerness and career and family building transformed into wisdom, helping  hands, no alarm clock, medicare and Grandkids to love.

Love often brings families to Memory Matters. A husband or wife realises that a memory is a little impaired and the sooner they make contact with us the more we can help. Although I focus many of my words on the people who have memory loss, frequent readers of these chronicles will know that I have often described the really difficult and most important work we do is with the care giver. I have some personal experience in this regard and once explained in this blog that taking care of my Mum in England was the hardest thing I have ever done. For these reasons I was delighted to recently be invited to a mens caregiver support group, superbly facilitated by our Licensed Counselor  – Ashley. She was supported by Chuck, who doubles as the Memory Matters Board VP and who knows what it is truly like to have a spouse suffer Alzheimer’s Disease. Chuck understands the “longest journey”. There were two other Board members present. Both have wives or mothers in care. One of them a 96 year old lady who still attends our Compass program.

On the day I attended there was a room full of care givers, all passionate about their loved ones and there to learn and support each other. It was an interesting and heartening experience for me and I definitely felt the love and empathy in the room. I came away wanting to return and learn more in the future.

Now the musician and Beatles fan in me has to finish with a song: 

All you need is Love, Love is all you need.

Happy Valentines Day to Everyone!

If you know of someone who has a slightly impaired memory, don’t delay, come and see us for a confidential baseline memory test. Or just call and make an appointment to speak to one of our professionals. Call 1 843 842 6688

THE ART OF FORGETTING!

 

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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

  1. Increase involvement in mentally stimulating activities.
  2. Engage in better nutritional habits.
  3. Increase physical activity.
  4. Socialize more with optimistic people.
  5. Learn how to decrease stress in a variety of ways.
  6. Use memory enhancement techniques.
  7. Use humor often in everyday life.
  8. 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)

  1. Puzzles, bookclub, bridge, music, go to Memory Matters.
  2. 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.
  3. Exercise, walk, gym, get oxygen to the brain.
  4. 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.
  5. Amen! Exercise, yoga, be positive! Hang with the winners again.
  6. Lists, and learn how to forget the forgets! Every problem is an opportunity.
  7. Laugh, have fun and live in the “now” moment.
  8. 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”!

Amen!

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. 

 

ALZHEIMER’S: ENCOURAGING RESEARCH NEWS TO START 2018

 

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Art Therapy. A regular feature of our programs.

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Two of my favorite volunteer elves, just prior to Christmas last year!

Happy New Year to all our Memory Matters extended family, including our care givers and their  loved ones, our staff, volunteers (including our very active Board), and generous and supportive donors without whom we could not continue to offer our growing range of Brain Health and Memory Care services.

As one of Memory Matters 100 plus volunteers I look forward to 2018,  and reporting back to you from time to time on our plans and progress through the year. I will endeavor to cover interesting research results and informational topics made available through both US and European Universities, but mostly I expect to directly describe the very human stories that occur every day in our Compass programs and Connections classes. As a volunteer who has been privileged to spend two days a week (one in Compass and one in Connections) at Memory Matters for the last three years, I admit to enjoying being involved in the imaginative and engaging programs and classes that our staff create. Observing the joy that many participants realize combined with the respite that their caregivers derive, together with the visible progress in the Connections classes can be a remarkable experience, and whenever a “mission moment” occurs you can be sure it will be featured in these chronicles.

In the meantime here is some interesting research detail.

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Even though Alzheimer’s disease remains without a cure, there is always positive reason for hope in the medium to longer term. Research scientists have reported new findings in the past six months, and in the first and most recent example from Britain it involves a little luck! Something we all deserve. One of my “overseas research assistants” (my lovely sister-in-laws!) spotted two interesting reports in the British Independent Newspaper. So thanks go to Clare from Wales!

Lancaster University in Britain has announced that a Diabetes drug holds promise for fighting disease after ‘significantly reversing’ memory loss.

Trial in mice improved memory and lowered levels of defective molecules that form nerve killing plaques

A drug developed for type 2 diabetes significantly reverses memory loss and could have potential as a new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases, scientists say.

The study, by UK and Chinese universities, is the first to look at a new combined diabetes drug and found improvements in several characteristic symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Lead researcher Professor Christian Holscher, from Lancaster University, said these “very promising outcomes” show multi-action drugs developed for type 2 diabetes “consistently show neurological protective effects”.

This latest study, published in the journal Brain Research, looked at a “triple action” treatment that combine three different drugs for type 2 diabetes, acting on biological pathways that could also have an impact on dementia.

Independent academics said a reduction in nerve-cell-killing protein molecules was particularly interesting and this was likely to be another avenue in the search for an elusive drug to combat dementia.

Professor Holscher has previously reported optimistic findings from an older diabetes drug, liraglutide, and clinical trials in humans are currently under way.

After two months of daily injections the mice were shown to significantly improve their performance in a maze designed to test memory.

The report concludes that the triple treatment “holds clear promise of being developed into a new treatment for chronic neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease”.

The Alzheimer’s Society, a charity which part-funded the latest study research, said that after 15 years without a new drug for Alzheimer’s disease the promising results from these crossover treatments, which are already known to be safe for humans, are likely to bring earliest benefits.

Professor Holscher added that further tests to compare its benefits against other potential treatments, and its effects in humans were needed.

But Professor John Hardy, a professor of neuroscience, at University College London who was not involved in the trial, said the study was “a first step, at best” towards a Alzheimer’s drug for humans.

“The results showing less amyloid deposition of amyloid in mice treated with glucagon receptor stimulating drugs is interesting,” he said.

“However, it should be noted that several other drugs have shown positive results in mice models of Alzheimer’s disease and then failed in human trials.”

Dr David Reynolds, chief scientific officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK, echoed this, but added: “There is a long road between studies that show an effect in animals and treatments in the hands of patients, and scientists will only be able to realise the potential of promising findings like these if we continue to invest in research.”

The Independent Newspaper also reported relevant and parallel news from MIT. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s affecting patient’s memories could be reversed, new research from MIT indicates.

It might be possible to break down the genetic blockades inside the brain which cause memory loss from Alzheimer’s, a study published in Cell Reports suggests. So far, the theory has only been tested on mice but lead author Li-Huei Tsai is hopeful that eventually it could be successful in reversing the symptom in humans.

Memory loss is a form of cognitive decline which occurs when the enzyme HCAC2 compresses the brain’s memory genes until they are rendered useless which, in turn, leads to forgetfulness and difficulty forming memories.

Whilst the obvious solution is to simply block HCAC2 in action, doing so has proven difficult without impacting other HDAC enzymes, which affect the internal organs.

MIT’s approach differs in that it exclusively affects HCAC2, leaving other enzymes undisturbed, something which has not yet been achieved.

Tsai succeeded in blocking the enzyme in December using LED lights, which prevented it from binding with Sp3, a genetic binding partner that is an integral part of genetic blockade formation.

Dr Marilyn Glenville, one of the UK’s leading nutritionists and author of Natural Solutions for Dementia and Alzheimer’s agrees that the findings are promising. “As Alzheimer’s is now the biggest killer for women and the third for men, it is important that we think about putting as much emphasis on prevention as we do on treatment,” she told The Independent Newspaper, explaining that only 5 per cent of Alzheimer’s cases are genetic.

The research is still in its early stages and has a long way to go until an official remedy comes to fruition. However, it is the most revolutionary research to date in finding something close to a cure for Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia which currently affects 850,000 people in the UK and over 5 million in the US.

If you would like more information about Memory Matters, our Brain Health initiatives, confidential memory screening, Compass day programs, Connections classes or care giver counseling, please call us at 1 843 842 6688

TIME TO REFLECT AND IMAGINE ANEW.

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This picture only hints at the joy of Connections participant Rebecca (second from right) and her priceless original artwork, created at Memory Matters under the gentle guidance of our artist-in-residence Art Cornell (second from left). Also pictured here are Program Director Cathee Stegall (far right) and Volunteer Daisy.

We are nearing the end of November, a month in which the growing Memory Matters family has taken time to remember lives touch by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. November being the Alzheimer’s  Disease and Family Caregivers Awareness Month. We held a candlelit service one evening at Memory Matters program center, we spoke from a church  pulpit, offered prayers, and attended ministry fairs and other awareness sessions at local churches from Hilton Head to Okatie. It was a time of reflection and remembrance, but we also looked forward with hope for the day when these so far incurable diseases will be isolated, and when scientific evidence will permit the prescribed use of interventions that will protect humankind from the disease.

We try to imagine anew what life would be like and, in our own truly unique way, our not-for-profit organization is charting a course that embraces the the most up-to-date research on brain health. We are not content to wait for the cure! We are determined to help educate our community with the most appropriate brain health lifestyle ideas based on solid research by US and International Universities.

Sir Winston Churchill who, among many remarkable achievements, wrote the “History of the English Speaking Peoples”, once remarked that in order to plan ahead, a wise man should read and study history and learn! So I am writing this both as a reflection of the past and a look to the future.

Two years ago we published a book (available from Memory Matters) entitled “Meet Me Where I Am”. It is a lovely “coffee table” book dedicated to our Caregivers and their loved ones who have experienced the loss of memory and cognitive decline. It combines touching words of sadness with humor and hope. It is especially relevant for those on the “longest journey”. One of the contributors is Art Cornell who later became our terrific “Artist in Residence”. Art is not only an acclaimed artist but also a poet, and here is one of his poems from the book which I have been reflecting  upon:

Love Complete by Art Cornell

On days such as this,

sky-piercing blue,

While wisps float;

Love is the whole and

more than all, much more.

 

Shared moments—

Surf crashing, rays heating,

Sand clinging—

Futures to dream, capsules of

Time remembered,

Looking at the music of

our lives,

And love is the whole

and more than all,

much more.

 

Give me your hand once

More before this day’s

night begins.

Your gentle eyes bright, a

touch soft, your voice

my soul vibrates,

And love is the whole

and more than all,

much more.

I have been privileged to watch Art empowering our Connections class participants with truly remarkable results. Our own Senior Program Director and Memory Care Specialist – Cathee Stegall is an amazing artist too and she wrote this in the book I have earlier refered  to:

“We are all born with natural abilities for creativity and art. Often as we “grow up” we lose sight of our creative, artisitic selves. For the person with dementia, finding that creative self again can be life changing. For the Caregiver it can mean moments of fun and joy”.

Cathee went on to explain that art gives a voice to those with dementia. As dementia progresses, cognitive abilities decline, making it a struggle to complete sentences and find words, express emotions. Through art therapy our Connections class participants receive the gift of self expression, an unheard voice to their emotions, the opportunity for success, accomplishment, and joy.

I have personally witnessed our class members “coming alive” tinged with a sense of serenity that is amazing to experience. Through the eyes of this volunteer I have witnessed change. A person lacking personal direction and motivation, or an agitated person, or even a listless person: I have seen them become calm and relaxed and more at peace with themselves.

Art Cornell and Cathee are both modest people but as I reflect on 2017’s successes, their art therapy contribution has been quite notable.

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The Connections class and Compass program will continue to be developed. Our art, music, yoga therapies and other socialization themes will be refined to reflect the results from new research studies, and we will continue to offer unparalleled care and counseling for the caregiver.

With  research specialists such as Dr Rudolph Tanzi successfully pioneering techniques to identify the genes that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease, there is hope of a cure in our children’s lifetime. There is more hope when leading philanthropists such as Bill Gates add their time, talent and treasure to the battle. I can imagine success in the future, as there has been with heart disease and some cancers.

Here in the Lowcountry I can easily imagine the dynamic and skilled Memory Matters team continuing to educate the community at large on the benefits of certain lifestyle interventions that will enhance brain health. In fact I expect this work will gather pace over the next few years.

So as I reflect and imagine anew I conclude that I’m delighted and privileged to be a Memory Matters volunteer!

If you know someone who would benefit from our help please introduce them or give them our telephone number 1843 842 6688. Call the same number for a confidential Memory screening or if you need information on our brain health educational programs.

ALZHEIMER’S: BILL GATES TO THE RESCUE?

 

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Bill and Melinda Gates

Finally!

We have someone of substance, indeed a philanthropist of global renown, with a voice that people of all persuasions will listen too. A man with a major Foundation, able to lead and bring huge finance forward and join the battle to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

Nothing has ever been easy with regard to this disease that millions suffer, but step by step Bill Gates believes that one day there will be a cure and he is determined to lead.

I am including within this blog highlights of interviews he has given to various media outlets this past week and the link to a complete transcript of an exclusive interview with CNN Health.

I love that Bill Gates is focusing on prevention and am quietly pleased and reassured that our own Memory Matters vision on Brain Health is being validated by his words and thoughts that he personally has discovered by speaking with the leading research scientists of our era.

Before reading Bill Gates remarkable contribution please take a look at a recent  impact analysis from the Alzheimer’s Association of America. 

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Now read extracts from Bill Gates recent  interviews and announcements:

” I first became interested in Alzheimer’s because of its costs—both emotional and economic—to families and healthcare systems. The financial burden of the disease is much easier to quantify.

A person with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia spends five times more every year out-of-pocket on healthcare than a senior without a neurodegenerative condition. Unlike those with many chronic diseases, people with Alzheimer’s incur long-term care costs as well as direct medical expenses.

If you get the disease in your 60s or 70s, you might require expensive care for decades.”

“This is something I know a lot about, because men in my family have suffered from Alzheimer’s. I know how awful it is to watch people you love struggle as the disease robs them of their mental capacity, and there is nothing you can do about it. It feels a lot like you’re experiencing a gradual death of the person that you knew.”

“My family history isn’t the sole reason behind my interest in Alzheimer’s. But my personal experience has exposed me to how hopeless it feels when you or a loved one gets the disease. We’ve seen scientific innovation turn once-guaranteed killers like HIV into chronic illnesses that can be held in check with medication. I believe we can do the same (or better) with Alzheimer’s.”

Please click on the link to read Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s CNN  Interview with Bill Gates.
At Memory Matters we are constantly researching practical ways to promote awareness of the importance of Brain Health. In some cases a dementia diagnosis might (there is no guarantee) be prevented by early adoption of preventative measures involving lifestyle. For example, adopting a Mediterranean diet, exercising regularly in a moderate manner, socializing to the fullest extent possible and, continuing to learn new things each week. The latter is something we work very hard at in our Connections classes especially designed to assist those with mild memory loss or mild cognitive impairment.

 

For more information about Memory Matters, Brain Health and our programs, please call 1 843 842 6688. We also provide confidential memory screenings.

NATIONAL FAMILY CAREGIVERS MONTH

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November is National Alzheimer’s Disease and Awareness  Month. It is also National Family Caregivers Month. This story reflects on both and emphasizes our counseling and support of Caregivers.

Memory Matters Staff, and Volunteers will be present throughout the month of November at several Hilton Island and Bluffton Churches where the local clergy have kindly agreed to celebrate the National event. They will hold a 66 second moment of silence to correspond to the fact that every 66 seconds someone in America is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s – the 6th leading cause of death in the USA. The clergy will read prayers of comfort for the families living with the disease and display Memory Matters “You Are Not Alone” flyers in the common areas or Church bulletins. Here are the prayers:

Loving God, Healer and Comforter,

We pray for those living with Alzheimer’s disease. In the days of changing memory and memory loss, be with them. Bless their families who surround them with love and patience. Give them peace, security and safety as within their dwelling places. Even in the moments of uncertainty, we ask for Your divine guidance and strength. Be the balm of Gilead to heal all their infirmities. Amen.

Dear Lord,

We pray today for the selfless people who care for men and women living with Alzheimer’s. You know how difficult the work and how heavy the burden is. We ask You for strength in their weakest and most vulnerable moments. Continue to  give them assurance that You are wrapping Your loving arms around them as they care for those who they’ve loved or so long who may not be able to reciprocate the same love. Fill their hearts with Your goodness and comfort and their souls with love. Help them find ways to rest and take care of themselves. Give them peace in times of doubt, calm every fear and dry their eyes when tears begin to fall. Remind them that You are the ultimate Father who does all things well. Amen.

The eyes of Volunteer Mike often look beyond the Memory Matters organization and pause to study relevant National and International news about Alzheimer’s research, towards the cure we all pray for, and to learn about creative ideas and solutions that can transform the life of a dementia sufferer and, by association, the life of that person’s Caregiver.

I am fortunate to live in a country where you can freely research information through the internet, and the act of simply writing and publishing this blog tends to attract similar minded interested parties. For example, I recently added a blog to my site’s reading list from an amazing young man in Australia who suffered a traumatic brain injury and in learning to live with the consequences he has become a source of comfort and inspiration to others. Scott approached me recently and I have enjoyed reading his words. You can find Scott B Harris by clicking on my link or going to the “Reader” on my site. It’s an important part of Memory Matters work to be cognizant of the people we care for in our day programs who have experienced traumatic brain injury and how to relate to and help their Caregivers.

Without being immodest with regard to Memory Matters past achievements and our current programs, I admit to being heartened by what I read in published news articles and reviews, TED talks and televised programs concerning Alzheimer’s, and choose to quote them here as confirmation that we are indeed mirroring the views of many people in public life and/or in our Universities. In promoting brain health (or Brain Wellness) in a holistic way we continue to pursue interventions that might (there is no finite scientific evidence yet) reduce the potential for Alzheimer’s or another dementia.  At the same time we continue our core work of providing counseling and respite to the Caregiver and while their loved one is in our memory  care center day programs.

Architects of change such as Maria Shriver and Patti Davis are forcefully promoting their own support groups for Alzheimer’s disease. Patti Davis is the daughter of President Reagan. Ronald Reagan was arguably the first famous person to admit to having the disease and sought to confront the “old fashioned” stigma head on! For ten years his daughter Patti was a Caregiver to her father and for ten long years of the Alzheimer’s journey NO-ONE ever asked her “how are you doing”! So now Patti Davis is a spokesperson for Alzheimer’s awareness  and founded Beyond Alzheimer’s to support the Caregivers.

“In the world of Alzheimer’s more than with any other disease, the family members are patients too. Having a safe place to go and talk, cry, laugh sometimes, widens the world, and lightens some of the pain.” – Patti Davis

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Robin Seaton Jefferson, is a columnist who writes about the aging US population and contributes to Forbes magazine where I recently found an article on caregiving. Robin lives just outside of St. Louis with her husband of 24 years and two daughters. Find her on Twitter and Facebook @SeatonJefferson or contact her at rsjreporter@charter.net. I have selected key points from her report and I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

A new study suggests that caregivers need and want to access support resources and that perhaps the experience of caregiving has made them consider the possibility of their own future needs.

  • According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease is growing — and growing fast. An estimated 5.5 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease.”
  • Of those Americans living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2017:
    One in 10 people age 65 and older (10 percent) has Alzheimer’s dementia.
    Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.
    African-Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older whites.
    Hispanics are about one and one-half times as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older whites.
  • “Because of the increasing number of people age 65 and older in the United States, the number of new cases of Alzheimer’s and other dementias is projected to soar. Today, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s dementia every 66 seconds. By mid-century, someone in the United States will develop the disease every 33 seconds.”

Health care providers who tend to dementia patients’ medical needs could be a key gateway to specific local and electronic resources for their patients’ caregivers. Health care providers should routinely ask patients if they serve as a caregiver to a loved one, so they can identify and address needs and concerns during the caregiver’s own appointments.
The “November 2017 Report: Dementia Caregivers – Juggling, Delaying, and Looking Forward” poll was conducted by the University of Michigan IHPI and sponsored by AARP and Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan’s academic medical center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The poll results are based on answers from those who identified themselves as dementia caregivers among a nationally representative sample of 2,131 people ages 50 to 80. It focused on unpaid dementia caregivers, family, and friends who help people with memory problems manage health issues and provide personal care.
Two-thirds of dementia caregivers polled said that their caregiving duties had interfered with work, family time or even getting to the doctor for their own health problems. Some 66 percent say their duties interfere with their own lives and jobs – including 27 percent who said they had neglected something related to their own health because of caregiving’s demands on their time. In fact, one in five caregivers rated their physical health as fair or poor, and 7% rated their mental health as fair or poor. One in seven believe their physical or mental health are not good enough to provide care to the care recipient.
Statistics gleaned from the National Poll on Healthy Aging.
Poll respondents answered a wide range of questions online which were then written, and data interpreted and compiled, by the IHPI team. Laptops and Internet access were provided to poll respondents who did not already have them. These are people who are unpaid, unsung and for the most part spending many hours a day helping someone who may not even recognize them anymore.
The new poll gives a glimpse into the lives of the spouses, grown children and other family members and friends who act as caregivers for millions of Americans with dementia.

Overall, 7% of poll respondents identified as a caregiver of a person age 65 or older with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or another cognitive impairment. Caregivers  are most likely to be women under 65 years of age and caring for a parent. To be exact, three in five or 60% provided care to a parent, 19% to a spouse, and 21% to another relative, friend, or neighbor. And the majority of care recipients – or some 70% – have another health condition and/or disability in addition to memory problems, the caregivers reported.
Nearly half of caregivers responding had other jobs in addition to being caregivers. They took care of medical needs, household tasks, and other activities to keep their loved one safe. One-quarter said the person they were caring for couldn’t be left alone for more than an hour.

While some 78 percent of respondents said that caregiving is stressful, even more said it was rewarding, however. In fact, 85 percent of family caregivers called caregiving a rewarding experience. The fact that 45 percent rated it as “very rewarding,” compared to 19 percent who called it “very stressful” should speak to the positive side of caregiving, It should be noted, however, that of the 40 percent of those who called dementia caregiving very stressful also said it was not rewarding.

Respondents to this poll said they believe that being a caregiver has made them think about their future needs.
The study found that only 1 in 4 caregivers reported that they had taken advantage of resources designed to help them, but a full 41 percent of those who didn’t expressed interest in such support.
The study concludes that as the population ages and the number of available caregivers is unlikely to keep pace, it is critically important to ensure that resources to support dementia caregivers are readily available and accessible.

Here at Memory Matters we continue to work closely with the local health community, offering the hospitals and Doctors our support for patients they diagnose with a dementia. We offer an unrivaled counseling service to the Lowcountry community and expect to expand this service through outreach programs in the coming months and years. The statistics published by the Alzheimer’s Association are cause for concern but we feel confident that we will continue to offer professional care for the Caregivers!

For information about Memory Matters including a free of charge memory test, call 1 843 842 6688. All calls are treated with confidentiality. Ask about our Connections program and make an appointment to sample a Connections day in our memory care center.

Memory Matters Vision is to Optimize Brain Wellness

LAUGHTER IN THE COMMUNITY

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Our Connections classes continue to grow in size this year. Why is that? It could be any one of the many things I have written about over the past 18 months, through the eyes of this volunteer.

In truth it’s a blend of everything we do: the art, yoga and music therapy, socialization, a place to meet friends on a regular basis, brain stimulating exercises involving numbers, words and sometimes a healthy debate about life in general. The classes always have a theme and typically there will be a new theme each month allowing different facets of the theme to be taught and debated. However, there is one constant we strive to achieve each and every week and that is simply laughter!

Whether it is caused by an amusing idea or conversation, laughter is in the air that we breathe.

We continue to offer a failure free and dignified environment, and our Connection class participants work really quite hard to stretch their brains and keep them positively exercised.

This last week the theme of our Connections program was “Community”. The world, continent, country, state, county, town or island. Church, business segment, university alumni association, family, and so on. Our participants came up with many more.

Having eased into the subject the challenge this week was to stretch our imagination at first individually, and then as a team. So four tables of approximately eight people had to decide what they would take with them if they were to be abandoned on a desert island. They were each allowed one individual item and one food item. Oh, yes! Marilyn Monroe, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt and George Clooney were not allowed! Laughter!

I can report that there were some intriguing and innovative ideas created to help get them back off the island or to provide for the building of a community. Building on the indivdual items the four teams developed their islands and to say this was fun would be the understatement of the year!

The islands were called:

  • “Motel 6 Island” specializing in literary groups where driving red Ferrari’s seemed to be the order of the day.
  • “Nutty Island” partly due to the inhabitants crazy ideas, but also because of the abundance of beneficial coconuts. This was an interesting island that specialized in community outreach to the other three islands and enjoyed music from a variety of sources.
  • “Healthy Island” specializing in spa treatment and healthy foods with a wonderful Winnebago to call home.
  • “Magic Lamp Island” with a plethora of books and writing materials and the magic lamp itself, whereby the women who were stranded on this island could summon “young men” to come and visit them! Most of us were disappointed with the “young” tag, but we laughed a lot about this too!

My favorite quotation at Memory Matters is by Dr. Seuss. “sometimes you will never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory”

Memories tend to be reinforced by laughter. I guarantee that our participants will long recall the laughter this week and the islands they created.

They will remember some of the words to the 59th Bridge Street song (Feeling Groovy) that we played and sang together and, they will remember laughing at the charades we played at the end of the day.

Laughter is one contagious thing that heals … try to laugh every day!

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For information about Memory Matters including a free of charge memory test, call 1 843 842 6688. All calls are treated with confidentiality. Ask about our Connections program and make an appointment to sample a Connections day in our memory care center.

Memory Matters Vision is to Optimize Brain Wellness

 

 

LEARN SOMETHING NEW EVERY WEEK!

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It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m already planning something new, interesting and fun for when I meet with my friends in the Memory Matters Compass Program on Tuesday. Similarly for Thursday when I volunteer in the Connections Class. Long ago my good friend and fellow volunteer Bob Engle taught me to regularly bring something new to Memory Matters. He challenged me to use my own brain to learn something entirely new each and every week. Often he will send me a message with a theme to contribute to, and/or ask me to learn a new song by an artist whose birthday it is (or was) on the upcoming Tuesday.

There have been a few classic challenges such as last week when I tried a Mamas and Papas song. Playing guitar and singing “California Dreaming” as a soloist without their illustrious four part harmony was certainly a challenge, as was “Total Eclipse of the Heart” to mark the recent total eclipse of the sun.

Bob and I, and our other volunteers, attempt many different interactive topics including stories about famous people, poems, rhymes, limericks, funny stories or real news items that can help stimulate the mind and allow our friends to be engaged. The results are nearly always rewarding and we are stretching our brains too. We always emphasize opening the mind and encourage learning something new every week!

Coincidentally I read an interesting article earlier today by Maria Shriver, herself an “architect of change”, a thinker and a huge supporter of the Alzheimer’s movement, both for seeking a cure and supporting care-givers everywhere. I include an extract of her writing, not as a political statement, but more as a reality check for the world we live in and especially the world of Memory Matters for which I am a passionate supporter and worker.

“Understanding the mind—our own and that of others—will lead us to all be better to those with mental health challenges. It will also lead us to be better and kinder to ourselves. Open minds and open hearts are what our world needs more of now. We need healthy, curious minds if we are to solve our most pressing problems: Alzheimer’s, climate change, health care, nuclear proliferation and more.

We need new ways of thinking. New ways of approaching challenges. Every day that the news gives us something to think about, the world also gives us something to do to help our fellow human beings”.

We spend so much time opening the minds of those attending our Memory Matters classes using the power of verbal communication and engagement, so it was a surprise to me that we had not before studied “non-verbal” communication. Last Thursday in the Connections Class we studied all forms of facial expression. In other words we tried to find out how many different emotional expressions were known to the Class.

Try it yourself. Smile, frown, anger, pout, frustration, thoughtful and so on. These are some examples. Under Program Director Maureen’s guidance our Connections Class came up with 62 different emotional facial expressions. Can you beat that?! Please let me know! Our Connections Class members never fail to surprise me with their engagement and competitive attitude.

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Later the Class wrote short essays about an imagined conversation between a dog and a cat. Simple I know, but there is a joy in sharing the fun results with friends.

So now I am ready to learn a John Denver song made famous by Olivia Newton John. It’s her birthday on Tuesday. The song title is called “Follow me”.

For information about Memory Matters including a free of charge memory test, call 1 843 842 6688. All calls are treated with confidentiality.

Memory Matters Vision is to Optimize Brain Wellness

MISS NORTH CAROLINA AND ALZHEIMER’S

 

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I have just read an interesting story published on the Alzheimer’s Association website. Alz.org. They quoted extensively from an interview in People Magazine with Victoria Huggins – Miss North Carolina – who had taken part in the recent Miss America beauty pageant.

Victoria gave a great interview and spoke to her almost lifelong experience with a close relative suffering the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. It was heartwarming to read of a young persons desire to be associated with efforts to enhance caregiving and bring joy to the lives of those suffering the disease.

I was thrilled to read that she is a proponent of the movement to create individual musical playlists, something our own Program Director and Memory Care Specialist, Maureen Gleason – is pursuing at Memory Matters.

So here is an excerpt from the thoughts, words and actions of Miss North Carolina.

 

The Moment Miss America Contestant Victoria Huggins Knew She Wanted to Advocate for Alzheimer’s Awareness: ‘It Was Like a Scene Out of The Notebook’

Victoria Huggins returned to the pageant circuit at 17, but she had been advocating for Alzheimer’s awareness and music therapy since she was 7 years old.

Huggins, the reigning Miss North Carolina, sang for her great-grandmother during visits to the nursing home where she received extended care. After a while, other residents wanted to hear her voice, so Huggins performed in the lobby, where she encountered Alzheimer’s patients for the first time.

“Sometimes the music would help connect them to memories they had been unable to remember due to Alzheimer’s. To see how something that I love so much, music, was able to bring so much joy and comfort not only to the person dealing with the disease, but also their families, that showed me that that was something I wanted to get involved in.”

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Huggins — who entered her first pageant when she was 5 years old — remembers one song in particular that resonated with a patient she visited in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

“There was a lady named Miss Rosie, and she had not been able to remember her husband for the past six months,” the University of North Carolina at Pembroke alumna recalls. “I started singing ‘At Last,’ and she reached her hand from the wheelchair to her husband’s beside her and said, ‘Honey, that’s our song.’ She started singing along to the lyrics and told all of her caregivers that that was her first dance at their wedding. He just looked at her like he had seen the sun for the first time. It was like a scene out of The Notebook.”

Life changing moments like that led Huggins to partner with the Alzheimer’s Association, for which she serves as an ambassador and partakes in the organization’s annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s. And since earning the title of Miss North Carolina in June, Huggins has started gathering iPods and loading them with personalized playlists for Alzheimer’s patients to listen to in nursing homes.

The Johns Hopkins grad student explains that the cost of music therapy makes it difficult to implement in every nursing home, but the iPods can help until legislation funding the practice passes.

“That’s my ultimate goal,” Huggins says of pushing for government funding. “North Carolina is on the way to having it implemented in every facility. A lot of other states have it on a much larger scale, but it definitely needs more awareness, and I hope that’s what I can do.”

Bringing her cause to Miss America, where she recently competed seems like a perfect fit to Huggins, as nearly two-thirds of the more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s are women.

Memory Matters is seeking a grant to enable us to buy iPods, headsets and sufficient iTunes music to be able to provide personalized playlists to our clients and their caregivers. Please contact us if you can help.

For information about Memory Matters including a free of charge memory test, 1 843 842 6688. All calls are treated with confidentiality.

IF A PICTURE PAINTS A THOUSAND WORDS……..

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If a picture paints a thousand words,
then why can’t I paint you?
The words would never show,
the you I’ve come to know . . .

David Gates – Bread

David Gates beautiful, expressive and memorable song entitled “If” is the prelude to the second class in Cathee’s August program with the theme being: “Words“.

Last week our Connections class focused on “words”, and the way in which different areas of the brain interpret words. For example the word “saw” can be understood as to having seen something, or to have met with a person, or it could be a tool, or someone in the process of cutting up a log. Different compartments of the brain view these words in different contexts.

This week Cathee led the class further and we debated whether a picture is more descriptive and memorable than words alone. To assist with the debate (and a good debate it was!), the Club members first were asked to visualize “the sun” and write down as many associated words as possible. Later they were asked to describe “love” in as many words as possible.

Here is a selection of our Club members really thoughtful written responses. Notice the frequent connections between “Sun” and “Love”.

Cathee later asked the Club members to draw “the sun” and “love”. Suffice to say the pictorial representations varied, and we discussed this too.

The Sun Love
Beauty Marriage
Burning Happiness
You are my sunshine (song) Everywhere
Radiance True love
Powerful Deep
Light for life Can’t live without it
Ultimate source of energy Family
Source of heat, light and comfort Devotion
A blinding and inpenetrable ball of fire. A warm and wonderful feeling when we are chilled.  In a song it could be a way of expressing a feeling of love and happiness Love is a feeling of closeness, of sharing and being supportive. Of wanting to share your life with someone. Of holding on to a moment, holding on to a memory.
Extinguishable energy of life Intangible object that transforms us all in ways that would seem virtually impossible to describe in natural terms
My dog Love is feeling of comfort and assurance
Son of God Peace
Power undefined Forgiving
Engulfed energy All you need is love (song!)
Sun and love God is love
Heat and warmth Love makes the world go round

The general consensus conclusion was that we needed both words and pictures to describe things, to educate, to express emotions and to represent our vision.

An example was given of the way the Italian church employed famous Renaissance artists such as Cimabue and Giotto in the 13th and 14th centuries and later, in the 15th century and 16th centuries, da Vinci and Michelangelo, produced sculptures, oil paintings on canvas, and frescoes on ceilings and walls, dipicting stories from the Bible or about a Saint.

The frescoes in the Upper Basilica in the Cathedral of St. Francis in Assisi are a classic early example. Giotto used 28 huge frescoes to describe the life of St Francis. For those who already knew the story it was easy to interpret the paintings but for those illiterate people in medievel times (and there were many), the Priest would use the paintings to describe the events in St. Francis life in pictures and words. It is easy to stand transfixed before these masterpieces and delve into their meaning, using words of your own. Then there is da Vinci’s most famous mural of the Last Supper in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan; and the greatest and most influential frescoes in the history of Western Art created by Michelangelo: the scenes from Genesis on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, and The Last Judgment on its altar wall.

From these examples we learned of the power and influence of art and pictorial story telling,  but concluded that without the original words they would not have had such a profound impact on mankind.

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Please share this if you believe it would help someone.

For information about Memory Matters including a free of charge memory test, call 

1 843 842 6688. All calls are treated with confidentiality.

Vision: Memory Matters optimizes brain wellness.

Mission: Memory Matters optimizes brain wellness and memory care through education, programs, and support for individuals, care-givers in the Low Country community.