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.

WORDS

IMG_1304Source of image and video: Nature – International weekly journal of science 

Another great “Brain Day”!

I particularly like to write about fun and rewarding happenings in our Connections program. Last Thursday provided us all, Club members and volunteers alike, with fascinating new information as to how our amazing brain works, and how it handles “words”.

Here is a paragraph written by one of the Club members incorporating eight words that we were all given to use, namely GO, NIGHT, DREAM, SUMMER, BIG, BUTTERFLY GARDEN, WIND:

One summer night I had a dream that I was outside in my Mother’s flower garden. I looked over and there was a big Monarch butterfly making its rounds to every flower. All  of a sudden a big wind came up and the butterfly had to go on its way so it wouldn’t get hurt.

I should add that I have faithfully copied this gentleman’s written word including his punctuation!

Here is a second paragraph from a lady Club member:

It was a black summer night. I was walking through the garden and saw a big beautiful butterfly. I asked the butterfly, “what are you doing out at night? Wait a minute, is this a dream? Butterflies don’t fly at night”! Said the butterfly “Well I am a very special butterfly and it’s a nice night to go out because there is no wind. But I’m tired now, so let’s both go back to our dreams”.

Again I have included the author’s precise punctuation.

My abiding recollection from days like these is the sheer effort that the Club members make to contribute, and to read and/or discuss their own ideas.

Cathee Stegall, our Program Director and Memory Care Specialist kept us fully engaged for all five hours, describing in easily understood terms the science of neuroplasticity. Even though the brain is made up of different regions, each associated with different functions such as reasoning, emotion and balance, Cathee explained that there is no one region of the brain that processes and stores all the words and concepts in our vocabulary.

For example if you hear the word “top”, a small area of the brain called the middle frontal gyrus will light up in recognition. However other regions of the brain will also light up depending on the context in which the word is used. So think of the brain as an atlas where one person might think of the word “top” as a peak, others a toy, or another an exam result. In each case the region of the brain responding to the word might be different. The brain really is so smart. It uses neurons in just about every pocket and fold to organize the meaning of words into logical groups. So words like “Mother”, “Father” and “family” are in one group area and next door you might find “home”, “owner” and “tenant”.

Here is an interesting brief explanatory video. The Brain Dictionary.

Last Thursday at Connections we had a lot of fun interpreting words in different ways. If you want to experience interaction and engagement in practice, participate in a Connections class! As usual this group of people had some surprisingly lateral thoughts! They all attend our Connections program to stretch their minds, and keep them as young as possible. I have known some Club members now for over two and  a half years. They joined long before I started volunteering, and they and their care givers have all have benefited from their weekly or twice weekly (Tuesday and Thursday) brain exercise in our failure free environment. There is clear evidence to show that brain wellness programs can succeed in combating symptoms of an early diagnosis of dementia, mild memory loss or mild cognitive impairment.

Cathee is currently developing new, and exciting additions to our popular Brain Boosters program and receiving much appreciated help and guidance from Memory Matters friend and contributor, Dr. Lisa Schrott (Associate Pastor of Pastoral Care at the Hilton Head Island First Presbyterian church) herself an expert in neuroplasticity. Cathee also benefits from her close colleagues input, all who have contributed to and/or led a Brain Boosters program. So I recognize here, Karen, Ashley, and Melissa too.

Remember we have a Brain Boosters class starting on September 18th at Memory Matters facility on Hilton Head Island, and another commencing on September 21st at Hampton Lake in Bluffton. Both run for 8 sessions for two hours on the same day each week. The cost is only $199 for all 8 sessions. More details can be found on our website or at the end of this blog.

As my readers know, we often lapse into song and on this occasion the key words I mentioned earlier led to impromptu renditions of Ricky Nelson’s “Garden Party” and the Everly Brothers “Dream”. Later we sang “Words” by the Bee Gees.

Talk in everlasting words
And dedicate them all to me
And I will give you all my life
I’m here if you should call to me

You think that I don’t even mean
A single word I say

It’s only words, and words are all I have
To take your heart away

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

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.

HAPPY TO BE BORED

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Over the past year or so I have enthused about healthy physical exercise, the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle, brain aerobics and countless other ideas that relate to “Brain Wellness”. This blog is about boredom!

Before anyone concludes that Volunteer Mike has completely lost the plot or is in need of urgent medical attention,  let me explain that our enterprising Executive Director – Sheila Strand – encouraged me to read an article from Maria Shriver last Sunday.  I did read the article all the way through and thought I would share with you the theme and my own conclusions.

Maria starts by saying  “Let’s face it. Boredom has a bad rap”.

Like all of us, she grew up not wanting to be bored and tried always to be two steps ahead of the curve, by studying, reading, communicating with the human race and working hard. In fact if you read her Sunday Paper you can conclude that she is an energetic and “driven person”.

“Nothing worse than being bored,” I’d tell myself and my children.

Then she challenged her beliefs about boredom and started longing for moments of silence when she could take stock of what she was doing and where she was going.  Maria decided to seek time or space for daydreaming and creativity.

She goes on to say : “I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling. Why? Because I see too many of us running through life with no time to think. No time to reflect. No time to be creative. No time to check ourselves. No time to get to know our evolving selves. No time to ask, “Am I doing what I want to do? Am I living aligned with who I am? Or, am I living in fear? Am I just running around because I’m too afraid to slow down and take a break?”

As she started contemplating boredom and her own desire for it, Maria started seeing books about its benefits everywhere. “I started reading articles warning us that we lose boredom at our own peril—as individuals, and as a culture. I started reading essays written by wise people who took the time to be bored, and discovered that they learned a lot about life, love and themselves in the process”.

Hmm! It makes you think. Would you not agree?

As avid readers of trivia know there is a day designated to  most things. E.g, hamburger day, national nudity day, hug a tree day and so on. In July we have “anti-boredom day”!

So, rather than take boredom at face value, turn it around and use peace, silence, tranquility in a purposeful way. Use it to create positive thoughts and quell the automatic negative thoughts (ANTS) that virtually every human being suffers from to the detriment of their brain health. It is far better to emphasize the positive and let go the negatives. Trash them!

Every time you have a negative, angry or stressful thought you release a powerful chemical called cortisol that can actually shrink the brain and make your body feel bad. Conversely every time you have a positive, creative or kind thought your brain releases chemicals to make your body feel good and cools the deep limbic system. When we use boredom purposefully we talk to ourselves and straighten out the ANTS.

I should add here as a reminder that Memory Matters runs a great program called Brain Boosters where you learn much more about the brain, its health and ways to prolong its normal life. If you haven’t signed up yet……..believe me it is worth doing so, particularly if you believe you have a normal healthy brain! We have a class starting on September 18th at Memory Matters facility on Hilton Head Island, and another commencing on September 21st at Hampton Lake in Bluffton. Both run for 8 sessions for two hours on the same day each week. The cost is only $199 for all 8 sessions. More details can be found on our website or at the end of this blog.

The conclusion to the Maria Shriver story is that we need to spend time with ourselves. Yes, you!

Look at the scenery surrounding our beautiful Lowcountry, paddle in the ocean, relax in a kayak and study the native birds, study the stars at night and imagine a place far far away where time stands still, but where it is possible to create something new that will positively impact you, your family and those in your community. Start anew perhaps. Listen to music, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and The Ode To Joy comes to mind as I write, and books that stretch the mind. Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan perhaps with its dream sequence? Relax and listen to a TED talk and be prepared to take action of your own. I gave a couple of examples in a recent blog. Paint, or just look at art, it too can be very calming.

Some might refer to this use of ” boredom” as meditation.  There is no doubt that meditation is extremely calming and at Memory Matters we experience and enjoy meditation every week in our Connections program and at other times with guest speakers.

I read a simple and useful article in the New York Times on meditation which covers the basics. Please read here  NYT How To Meditate. For more in depth information on meditation try reading Deepak Chopra’s work.

In summary, it’s good to be bored in a positive way. It gives you time to be kind to yourself and to recognize that there are so many good things that you do and perhaps can do in the future. Last week I wrote about our Connections Club Members who thoughtfully gave advice to self when they were aged ten years old. There were some profound and wise words. I then challenged my readers to do the same and consider what advice they as adults would give to themselves as ten year olds. Among the answers was one from a lady who is on our Board of Directors. Clearly she found time and space to be bored (!) and concluded:  “Be able to be alone with yourself…you get to know YOU better!”

I encourage my readers to write back and tell me how they use “boredom” to good effect. I will share the results with our Memory Care Specialists.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GO BACK IN TIME AND SPEAK TO YOURSELF!

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I’m 69 years old (yes I admit it) although my Grandkids probably think I’m older than that, or “really old”! I hope that along the way I have become a little wiser than I was as a pre- teenage kid, but sometimes my mind wanders back to when I was ten years old.  I remember happy times playing cricket or soccer with my Dad or putting 18 holes in the local park. I think back to school and the friends that I made, the games we played and the best teacher in the world. Her name was Mrs. Packham and I trusted her implicitly.

But with the benefit of wisdom would I have acted differently? Would I have made different choices or added to my selection? What difference would the onset of 59 extra years have made if I knew then what I know now?

The French writer- philosopher – Honore de Balzac – concluded  “Because wisdom cannot be told”! He was quoted in a 1940 Harvard Alumni Bulletin with this conclusion as its title. Balzac actually wrote” “So he had grown rich at last, and thought to transmit to his only son all the cut and dried experience which he himself had purchased at the price of his lost illusions; a noble last illusion of age”.

So if, with wisdom, I was able to go back in time and write a letter to myself when I was age ten, would I be able to impart my 69 years of wisdom to myself in order that I might live my life over differently?

This question is the very same one that Cathee, our Memory Care Specialist posed to our Connections  Club last Thursday. The answers the Club members wrote varied from straightforward to touching and, from ingenious to profound.

In these blogs I have often challenged my readers to come and visit Memory Matters and learn how to be a volunteer in our Memory Care center and to be rewarded for taking the time and sharing their talent and kindness of human spirit. While we offer critical help to caregivers and their loved ones experiencing issues with dementia our role in the Lowcountry community is significantly broader. We optimize brain wellness! Our mission is to ensure that everyone who enters our facility or engages anywhere with our Memory Care Specialists and trained volunteers, enjoys a motivational and exhilarating “brain day”. 

Typically our Connections club members have been diagnosed with an early indication of dementia or simply mild cognitive impairment or mild memory loss. Our job is to exercise the 3lbs of “squidgy” muscle that is their brain, to stretch it, and stimulate its processing power. This we do in a failure-free environment with a wide variety of programs that include problem solving, communication and questions that require in-depth thought. Our members achieve this week after week, but some weeks yield  exceptional results, which is why I want share with you the letters our Club members wrote to themselves back in the the time they were ten years old.

We started the class by discussing some examples. These included:

  • Forget about being the best at everything.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff
  • Treat cruelty with kindness
  • Laugh at yourself.

Then with this little background our Connections Club members went to work and I am going to share their thoughts and words verbatim. I am incredibly proud of these people with their amazing brains and zeal to make the most of their lives for many, many years to come. I am more than proud to be one of their friends. There is no thought of sitting around on a couch watching TV, or reflecting on nothing. These folk are pro-active!

Here are their messages to themselves as a ten year old (not in any particular order and I have not included duplicates):

  1. Be at peace with others -they have problems of their own.
  2. Show loyalty to your friends and family.
  3. Listen to advice from teachers and parents.
  4. Study history of those who have succeeded at some task.
  5. See how those who succeeded stayed with their beliefs.
  6. Try kindness to others. It is productive.
  7. Whistle while you work. It’s attitude that is important.
  8. Learn from your friends.
  9. Make more friends.
  10. Take up a hobby.
  11. Be a friend to someone.
  12. Hug more.
  13. Kiss more.
  14. Climb trees.
  15. Trust yourself.
  16. Walk more.
  17. Wear sun block.
  18. Adapt yourself wherever you go.
  19. Follow your dreams.
  20. Try new foods.
  21. Learn something new each day.
  22. Be kind to others.
  23. Speak kindly.
  24. Have a hobby.
  25. Be good to animals.
  26. Read more.
  27. Learn to dance.
  28. Read and study the Bible more.
  29. Read widely.
  30. Buy more stocks.
  31. Smile more.
  32. Study
  33. Love
  34. Sing
  35. Tell your parents you love them.
  36. At age ten not passing an exam is NOT a failure.
  37. Pray more.
  38. Learn a second language.
  39. Learn a musical instrument if you are given the chance.
  40. Buy Apple, Google and IBM stock.
  41. Save money.
  42. Mind your own business.
  43. Being an only child is not all bad.
  44. Listen more and talk less.
  45. Wish everybody a great day!
  46. Tell someone you love them.
  47. Hug your children.
  48. Fill your car with gas. Don’t let it run empty.
  49. Call your family.
  50. Take someone to lunch.
  51. Pay your bills.
  52. Write thank you notes.
  53. Clean up NJ politics!
  54. Tell Mom how great she is.
  55. Love your sister (and brother)
  56. Be nice to Joe F.
  57. Have better manners.
  58. Learn to cook.
  59. Help with multiplication tables.
  60. Make money through work -there is no free lunch.
  61. Babysit your little sister.
  62. Have more fun.
  63. Listen to your Mom and Dad. They want the best for you .Tell them you love them.
  64. Play fair – do NOT cheat.
  65. Make friends with boys and girls.
  66. Enjoy your summer play and sports. It builds character.
  67. Be gracious. Don’t be a sore loser.
  68. Dream Set some goals.
  69. Be polite to your teachers, clergy, and older family members.
  70. Study what others need!
  71. Love your neighbor as yourself.
  72. Love the Lord.
  73. Work hard.
  74. Stick with learning the piano.
  75. Tell Bill M. to stop beating up that other boy.
  76. Eat less.
  77. Have fun!
  78. Listen to music.
  79. Tell good stories.
  80. Attitude is important.
  81. Learn to love yourself.

Creating the environment in which intelligent people can exercise and stimulate their brain is something we do every day. Is it always easy and straightforward to get these fine people to open up their hearts and minds? No! However, with perseverance, gentle persuasion and trained memory care techniques and experience the results are often beyond our expectations. This was a case in point. The 81 one-line thoughts they wrote last week were carefully solicited and thoughtfully composed by our Club members.

Think about it yourself. Write down the top five things you would want to tell yourself when you were ten years old. Be honest with yourself and be brave! Our Connections Club members were so.

If any of my readers would like to share their own story that we can in turn share with our Club members to further engage them, then please comment via our website at http://www.memory-matters.org, or to volunteermike.com.

Meanwhile have a great brain 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.

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.