THE ART OF AMOS HUMMELL

“A man paints with his brain and not with his hands.”
― Michelangelo Buonarroti

Hickory DaiquiriThere are many local people and businesses that generously give of their time, talent or treasure to support the work we do for Brain Wellness and Memory Care Services. Some give all three and Amos Hummell is one of those.

I have previously written about our artist in residence – Art Cornell – who does an amazing job for us in the Memory Care Center, and I have written about how music and art play a large role in “exercising the brain” and improving brain wellness and the sense of overall well being.

Amos is the husband of Lynne Cope Hummell who herself did such a stellar job in editing our coffee table book “Meet Me Where I Am”, an uplifting collection of creative expressions centered on our caregivers. Those of us who have been privileged to meet Amos know he is special! A warm hearted and quietly spoken man with a mischievous twinkle in the eyes that define the incredible gift of expressive talent that he embraces in life.

As my readers know we have many kind people who “volunteer” for Memory Matters and every now and then I give them a “shout-out”. This is an unreserved shout-out for Amos Hummell!

The story starts with Amos offering to produce a painting “live” for us at our signature gala back in April. It takes a certain courage to produce a large format painting of the quality that Amos achieved while surrounded by nearly 250 guests, and be able to offer it for live auction there and then! Needless to say the beautiful painting was finished and after a tense and exciting bidding “war” was purchased by our own Board member Brad Wilson on behalf of Charter One Realty. It now hangs prominently in Brad’s office. In the photograph below is the painting with Amos and a justifiably proud Brad. “The Missing Poissons”.

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For those of you who don’t know Amos yet you will have an opportunity very shortly to do so . His new collection “Five O’Clock Somewhere” will take place shortly at the Arts Center – July 7-29, 2017
Hosted by the Art League of Hilton Head,
in The Walter Greer Gallery
Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, 14 Shelter Cove Ln, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
artshhi.com

I encourage you to go and view the paintings like the signature Hickory Daiquiri Dock at the beginning of this blog and others that follow. There will be amusing poems and limericks too describing the art you will see before your eyes.

Hummell Full Tilt

Amos has lived on Hilton Head Island for 36 years. His artistic career began in the 1990’s when he discovered the art of polymer bead making and for several years was known locally as “the Bead Man”.  Then he started painting signs, often on tin. Soon he was inspired to paint on many different materials using a bright, vivid palette with vibrant colors, characters and experiences of the Lowcountry. His work is best described as non-conventional and with tremendous creative expression. It has also been described a type of “Folk Art” and has its roots in African and Jamaican imagery.

His earlier work can still be seen at Marleys Island Seafood Grille in Park Plaza.

Amos happily described to me the way in which he develops a piece of art and anticipates the mind of the viewer. For example in the “Missing Poissons” painting produced for our gala he could imagine the viewer discovering more hidden detail with each martini they consumed! That’s five o’clock somewhere! 

Following the art show at the Greer Gallery Amos has plenty of plans to further his career including producing a coffee table book.

When you meet with Amos you are left with no mis-understating as to the genius of his expression. His mind is alive with ideas and just like Michelangelo his brain is driving his artistry.

Hummell The Landing

Amos is especially keen on involving children in the creation of their own on-stage art. He continues to be a strong advocate of arts education, and has supported the Island School Council for the Arts as a participant in “An Evening of the Arts” for two decades.

He has come a long way from his first family reunion here on Hilton Head Island back in 1965 when he used a bicycle to get around the sandy tracks on what then looked more like Hunting Island than that we know today. He loved the place then and is happy to have called it home for so many years.

You can contact Amos via his web site at http://www.hummellstudios.com or by email to hummellstudios@gmail.com.

THANK YOU AMOS! YOU ARE A STAR, AND MEMORY MATTERS IS SO HAPPY THAT YOU ARE OUR FRIEND.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MUSIC TO MY EARS!

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“There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game.
It’s easy”.

John Lennon – The Beatles – from “All You Need is Love”

I have some really good news! Please study the content of this blog. The story makes  good and encouraging reading!

Last week I posted a blog entitled “The Sounds of Music” featuring our musicians, a visiting Welsh singer and the Sun City Dulcimers. Singing in a “lead” role with the Dulcimers was one of our Club Members who performed an inspirational rendition of Amazing Grace.  At the same time I also posted, on Memory Matters Business Facebook page, a video of this gentleman singing with his heart, mind and voice!

Together with my friends at Memory Matters I was gratified to note that together the two posts reached over 8000 people on Facebook in just seven days. Having written over fifty blogs in the past year it is notable that our readers often express especial interest in our description of the therapeutic benefits of music.

Now let’s take this a step further with exciting news of a new and relatively simple and inexpensive approach using music to help caregivers, Memory Care Specialists, and dementia sufferers everywhere!

A study by researchers at Brown University in Rhode Island was published on May 10th, 2017 describing how they found that individual music playlists had a calming or pleasurable effect on Care Home residents.  Caregivers and Memory Care Specialists, including our own, can look to the results of the first national study to compare key outcomes in homes that implemented an individualized music program called MUSIC & MEMORY with similar homes that did not adopt the program. A total of 98 care homes used the program called Music and Memory which trains care workers to create music playlists for residents based on their personal history and music preferences. Residents’ mood, behavior and their use of anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic medication  were all recorded at the beginning of the study and at the end, with care homes reporting an improvement in residents behavior and less need for medication.

In addition to the Brown Study that you can read via my link I can report that the British  national Care Home organization that helps to regulate, advise and provide quality standards, has already ‘jumped on’ the Brown study this month and quickly provided the following interesting and practical report from its own focussed work. The British organization is CareHome.co.uk 

Suffice to say, Memory Matters will be following up too!

“Time consuming but worth it!

It can be time consuming for care workers (caregivers or Memory Care Specialists) to find out each resident’s favourite music. However Orii McDermott, senior research fellow at Nottingham University, believes it improves their quality of life so it is “time well spent in the long run”.

Balhousie Care Group in Scotland has trained up some of its care workers on compiling personal playlists. It joined forces with the charity Playlist for Life which was founded by broadcaster Sally Magnusson, who lost her mother to dementia.

Playlist for Life wants every person with dementia, whether living at home or in a care home, to have a playlist of personally meaningful music from key moments in their life, available on an iPod, tablet or phone.

The charity believes personalized music playlists can also reduce pain. It has a very useful Personalised Music Assessment Tool which measures the impact of the playlist on pain as well as a number of other factors.

Abbeyfield Society, which runs care homes and extra care housing, has also now embraced the concept and is training over 200 care workers and volunteers to become music detectives and compile different music that has significant meaning for people with dementia.

Therapeutic benefits amplified.

April Dobson, head of dementia and innovation at Abbeyfield said: “Therapeutic benefits of music are already well documented, and there is growing evidence that personally meaningful music can amplify those effects.

“We can all think of music that gives us ‘that flashback feeling’ and transports us back to another time, person or place in our lives. That music can become a lifeline if you develop dementia because it is deeply attached to your memories and emotions. It can soothe, calm and comfort and also make us feel alive. That’s exactly the experience we want to be able to provide for people living with us who have dementia.”

Abbeyfield staff are being trained up as it can be difficult piecing together songs which are significant to someone with dementia. “They may not be able to speak or remember the songs that have left an audial footprint on their lives. That’s why we are training up staff and volunteers to become music detectives looking for clues and identifying music that triggers autobiographical memory and instils a sense of identity and belonging for people with dementia,” added Ms Dobson.

Music is ‘neurologically special’.

The Abbeyfield Making Music project uses tools and training developed by Playlist for Life, with the project being supported by The People’s Postcode Trust. For more information read here: Playlist For Life.
Abbeyfield Stow Park resident Trudy Morgan with psychiatric nurse, Peter Clark
Playlist for Life chief executive Sarah Metcalfe said: “Abbeyfield is the first care group to deliver playlists into every one of their homes in this strategic way. It is really exciting to be working with them as they lead the way on personal music for dementia.

“Music is neurologically special because it stimulates so many parts of the brain at once. Even if dementia has damaged one part of the brain it can still reach those other parts almost as if it gets ‘in through the back door’ to access memories and abilities that had been thought lost.

“We teach people to become music detectives, giving them skills and tips about how to find the music that is personally meaningful to an individual. Were they part of a choir? Is there old sheet music about? Do relatives or friends remember them enjoying a particular film or going to the cinema?”

Care workers are then taught how to incorporate the playlists they have built into care plans and use the music to help people do the things they may find difficult, like eating or bathing.

“Music helps to make people more grounded in their own sense of self. It can help manage their mood so they have better visits with their family – it’s a way of reminding them who people are. It builds better connections between care home staff and the people they are caring for. Carers learn so much more about an individual just by looking at the person. They learn so much about them and their life story, which is enhanced by the cognitive benefits of music. The two just come together,” says Ms Dobson.

‘I have seen the difference it can make’

Anita Pascoe is an activities coordinator at Abbeyfield Stow Park in Newport, Wales which is set to become the first certified Playlist care home in the UK.

She admits she was “sceptical about the project at first” but says: “I have seen the difference it can make. Many of the people living with us have very complex needs, but the music can help on so many levels. It helps relax them, helping at meal times and bathing – and it does unlock their memories, which is lovely for their families. To see couples who have been so devoted to each other being brought together by music which connects them brings a tear to your eye. It is lovely.”

Creating a personalized playlist is not just about saying someone liked Elvis or Jonny Cash. It’s about going back further: Finding out the songs they would sing in their courting days, or that you could remember them singing before their memory shut down, she says.

Harry and Margaret.

Craigielea care home in Renfrew in Scotland has seen huge changes in their residents due to personalized playlists. Harry who has severe dementia and his wife Margaret were the first couple Playlist for Life worked with at the home. Margaret came every day to see Harry and left most days in tears, as he had stopped responding to her. However something as simple as a personalized playlist got Harry smiling and talking again and he now listens to songs with his wife and they both sing along.

Sheila Inshaw, manager of the home which was recently named as one of the Top 20 care homes in Scotland by the leading care home reviews site carehome.co.uk, reveals that they were looking at some form of medication for Harry as he was so withdrawn “to bright him up a little and get him to interact a bit more. But this is so much better than a chemical intervention. It doesn’t cost anything and we have Harry back for nothing!”

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

 

 

ARE YOU AN OPTIMIST?

I can do itSome days are definitely better than others! In our Connections program, some days are amazing and you don’t want the day to end because of the electricity in the room and first class contribution from the Club Members themselves.

We live for days like these. When our Memory Care Specialist and Program Director – Cathee- briefed us on the theme for the upcoming day, I had an inkling that this might be a really good day. The theme being “Optimism”. However I had no idea just how dynamic and dramatic the day would be.

Cathee started by comparing optimism and pessimism and seeking to find out how our Club Members and volunteers perceived themselves. She briefly described how we should avoid negative thoughts and the “Cortisol Connection”. For those who have attended our Brain Boosters program we know that cortisol is a potent chemical that surges when we become stressed or worry over nothing. Research has shown it can act like a drug and shrink human brains. Cortisol shuts down learning, creates anxiety and can cause depression.

We talked about worry. Did we mean worry or did we really mean “concern”?

Some of us admitted that we worried about our children even in later life when they have children of their own; and we all worried about the world in which our grand children will live when we are gone. The ‘trick” being to turn that worry into a positive, or an opportunity. This was the moment when our Club Members stepped up, and before Cathee could go into her pre-planned program, we changed course!

One gentleman suggested that we break the discussion into three separate elements: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. We did so and there followed a great discussion where everyone seemed to want to contribute quite profound thoughts. So below this paragraph I am posting a replica of the thought process that evolved, and which we recorded in précis form.

OptimismFollowing the debate we completed a questionnaire specially structured to determine whether we were naturally pessimistic, or slightly or strongly optimistic. The results probably surprised some since nearly everyone was determined to be at least slightly optimistic and many very optimistic, even though these Club Members had earlier perceived themselves to be less than optimistic!

Later in the morning, after our yoga session left us relaxed and mellow we chose to sing some positive songs chosen by the Club Members and  these included: “I’d like to teach the  world to sing in perfect harmony”, “You raise me up” and “The Wind beneath my wings”. Later in the afternoon we closed with “Wonderful World” and “Happy Together” by the Turtles!

After lunch Cathee found time to return to the theme and asked us to list all the things we find positive now we are older (and maybe wiser)!

It was an interesting list and as one Club Member called Tom reminded us, “its an infinite list and we have to find space and time to continue to extend it”!

I repeat, in no particular order:

  • Medicare
  • Grandkids
  • Discounts
  • Going to bed when we want
  • Getting up when we want
  • White hair
  • No need to visit the barber
  • The sense of being alive
  • Relaxing
  • Children invite you to dinner!
  • Good health
  • Easier parking
  • Time to self
  • More choices
  • More time to try new things
  • Learning to play music
  • Learning to dance
  • Learning to sing
  • Reading more books
  • Travel to new places
  • Making new friends

Yes, we agreed with Tom, the list is endless. Tom told me that even busy working people  should be able to find ‘space’ to do most of the above, but it seldom happens. Retirement opens up the choices, or perhaps facilitates the optimistic thought patterns. Good choices today open up infinite possibilities for tomorrow, and so I repeat my favorite mission moment quotation from Dr. Seuss:

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Being a volunteer at Memory Matters has certainly introduced me to new friends, both staff and Club Members, and days like today help to keep us all positive and feeling young!

I could not finish this blog without a mention of one of our Club Members who was celebrating his 60th Wedding Anniversary. Cathee, Karen and I were present when he presented his wife with a lovely bouquet of roses. It was a very special moment and capped off a super day.

IMG_2481.JPGPlease share this if you believe it would help someone. Call 1 843 842 6688 Memory Matters office for more information. It’s always confidential. We offer memory screening too. We are a phone call away here in your local community.

SOMETIMES SAYING “THANK YOU” IS SIMPLY NOT ENOUGH!

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This blog is intended to give a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who contributed their time, talent and treasure to making our signature Gala – “April in Paris” – such a great success!

Let me start by thanking the renowned Fine Artist Amos Hummell (see above) for gracing our 20th Anniversary Signature Gala held on April 25th at Sea Pines Country Club. Amos gave a live painting exhibition and his beautiful donated work was auctioned during the evening.

This was a truly wonderful evening where the Lowcountry community came together and made a significant donation to our not-for-profit Brain Wellness and Memory Care resource.  In excess of $100,000 was raised for Memory Matters through the goodwill, generosity and pure human kindness of many, many people.

My words of thanks include everyone. By emphasizing this word I include all those people who could not attend the Gala but thoughtfully and generously donated to the event. It would be impossible to list all the names, but you know who you are! Thank you all!

Similarly there were so many kind and anonymous donors present at the Gala. Your generosity was tremendous. Again, I cannot list names, but as my wife’s Irish family would say, thank you a thousand times. 

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To our event sponsors, we reach out once more and say “thank you so much”. Without your financial support we could not have been so successful. 

At the top of this list of sponsors are our wonderful Dosal Family friends who gave at the Platinum level. Brookdale, Benton House, and Bloom Senior Living gave generously at the Gold level, and at the Silver level we also received generous donations from Beacon Insurance Group, Boys Arnold & Company, Coastal States -Raymond James, Kroger, South State Bank and Tidewater Hospice.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a special “THANK YOU” to Sea Pines Resort who helped secure some imaginative auction items and to Whole Foods who provided 8 dozen roses to help beautify the venue.

To the Board of Directors of Memory Matters who graciously gave of their time, talent and treasure: thank you!

Thank you to those community volunteers who serve on some of our committees. We value your input and efforts on our behalf.

I saw a number of our regular Memory Care Center volunteers at the Gala and for everything you do for our care givers and their loved-ones in the Memory Care center, another thousand thank yous!

Last and by no means least a special thank you to the Memory Matters staff who worked tirelessly on their day jobs and the Gala. As a volunteer in Memory Care, you are my friends and I am proud to be able to work alongside such a passionately dedicated team of people.

For those of you in the Lowcountry who may be reading about Memory Matters for the first time, or are someone who knows of our well-respected contribution to the local community and are interested in updating yourself, I will briefly touch on the key note address given by our Executive Director Sheila Strand. Sheila took over the reins from Eddy Hoyle who retired this year. Over a twelve year period Eddy did a fantastic job establishing Memory Matters as we know it today, and she will never be forgotten.

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Now in a short space of time Sheila Strand has already inspired her team to pursue exciting new initiatives and to grow our service offerings still further. In her address Sheila spoke of:

Our VISION:

Memory Matters Optimizes Brain Wellness.

Our MISSION:

Memory Matters optimizes brain wellness and memory care through education, programs, and support for individuals, caregivers and our Lowcountry community.

“Brain Wellness”. We already provide community education for brain wellness. It’s more than what some might call brain health. Wellness has been described  as a state of “being”, whereas health is about our “body”.  These are perhaps semantics so let me use my own words to review Sheila’s address. Let’s consider this holistically but in a practical way.

Many of us attend a gym and work out. Some of us just walk, jog, ride a bike or practice yoga. We then monitor our weight, muscle build up and BMI (body mass index). We are complimented for loss of weight and muscle build up, and then we are chastised by the physical training experts for an increase in BMI! Wow! We need to eat more regularly and more often and sometimes simply more! We always need to balance carbohydrates and protein.

With our heads reeling from all this knowledge we are now encouraged to adopt a southern Mediterranean diet! Now that is a pleasure, and anyone reading my recent blog on the nutritious value of Italian food can perhaps start to relax a little! Even drink a glass of red wine in moderation.

All of the above makes eminent sense to those of us who are determined to maintain their fitness for life as the years seemingly move faster by. These fitness and nutrition plans are so important and are frequently adopted, but how many people do you know who deliberately combine brain wellness programs with exercise and nutrition? How many have daily plans to exercise their brain?

If you would like to know more about this subject then please call us and make an appointment to speak confidentially to one of our Memory Care Specialists. By adopting simple techniques and programs we can help you to develop a holistic plan.

My wife and I like to think that our aging memories are relatively intact, but we both benefited hugely from the Brain Boosters program last year and, speaking as a person who volunteers twice a week in our programs, I am constantly learning and finding new ways to exercise my brain. In fact I would recommend volunteering at Memory Matters to anyone looking to give back to the community and, at the same time, improve your own brain wellness.

So please continue to follow these blogs as I seek to describe the evolution of Memory Matters in our community. We are not short on ideas, knowledgeable people or motivation to succeed. We are also “listeners” and I would encourage you please to call us with your ideas and needs.

We are not just based at 117 William Hilton Parkway! We are constantly moving through the community from Hilton Head to Bluffton, Sun City and beyond. We are educating through our Purple Angel project and teaching sensitivity where appropriate. We are developing new brain wellness programs which we can bring closer to your home.

In summary: our vision to optimize brain wellness is evolving, and our mission to optimize brain wellness and memory care through education, programs, and support for individuals and care-givers in the Low Country community is taking place now!

We desire to partner with you to spread the message that our brain wellness education is available to all.

Let me finish by reiterating my thanks to EVERYONE who contributed to our Gala in a modest or substantial manner. You are all important to us at Memory Matters and your visible renewal of confidence in our future was truly humbling. 

THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH!

Please share this if you believe it would help someone. Call 1 843 842 6688 Memory Matters office for more information. It’s always confidential. We offer memory screening too. We are a phone call away here in your local community.

BRAIN AEROBICS

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“The growth of the human mind is still high adventure, in many ways the highest adventure on earth” – Norman Cousins

Now my sweet and lovely eight year old Grand Daughter does not need to attend Memory Matters “Brain Boosters” program. Evidently she already knows much more than her Parents and Grandparents combined! She is practicing “Brain Aerobics”! It is true that our brains are amazing at any and every age and this young lady is a good example of someone born with a curious mind and who is enjoying using it to accumulate knowledge as fast as she possibly can!

This blog is a return to one of my favorite Memory Matters topics. The Brain Boosters Program, designed for those of us who still think we are young in heart, spirit and able to compete in mental gymnastics with eight year olds! I was like that last year when my wife Barbara and I joined the Fall program. We considered that we had perfect memories and rarely needed our memories nudging…………….well almost!

So if you are honest, tell me, are you like me?

  • Are you someone who misplaces his glasses regularly only to find them in the garage, car or, far worse, hanging around your neck?
  • Do you misplace your car keys?
  • Do you forget your shopping list? Now you have Amazon’s “Alexa”, do you forget to put the milk on her list!
  • Do you know where you parked your car at Walmart?
  • Do you muddle up your Grandkids names or sometimes call one of them the name of their pet dog?
  • Do you forget the date, or precisely what your wife asked you remember to do for her? “Never” you shout out loud, but…………………..
  • Do you forget appointments or forget to make a note of them?
  • Do you lose track of time?

My questions are all asked with a smile on the face of this sixty something year old guy! As we grow older none of us have perfect memories but, we can improve and now is the time to learn some knew ways to compensate for “normal aging”. There are so many myths about aging and the first thing you will learn at Brain Boosters is to differentiate between myth and reality.

So please sign up and join 34 other forward thinking people for an 8 week program commencing on Tuesday May 2nd. The program will be held every Tuesday through June 20th and each session will run from 10am to 12 noon. The venue is the TidePoint Club House and the fee is only a one time payment of $199.

One of the best things you can do for your brain wellness is to learn something new each week. It could be a song, a recipe, a poem, or something meaningful in your life. e.g how to become a Memory Matters Volunteer perhaps; or like me 12 months ago, you might start researching and writing a blog! Joining Brain Boosters would be a step in the right direction.

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Join us to learn:

  • How emotions impact the formation of memories. Learn about the limbic system often referred to as our emotional brain.
  • How automatic negative thoughts (“ANTS”) impact our brain health, and be shocked at just how many tens of thousands of negative thoughts impact the average brain every day of the week! Ah! But what can we do to crush them?
  • Learn how to exercise your brain by understanding how to balance reacting versus responding.
  • Learn good and proven memory techniques aka mnemonics. How to remember names, places, and the last item on the shopping list. You will astonished at how these techniques work in every day real life!
  • How our five senses impact memories.
  • How important nutrition and exercise are to a healthy brain. The program is able to give positive examples.
  • Yoga, Tai Chi and meditation are centuries old techniques for brain stress reduction. We will review them and provide examples.

Speaking from personal experience I can assure you that this is an enjoyable class and the program leader will quickly develop a great sense of camaraderie in this failure free environment. The 35 students will together have a common goal of learning how to exercise and take care of their brains. The students will be invested, engaged and interactive, and thus a supportive and uplifting community develops from day one!

This is not a strict lecture style class, and every week there will be a new topic to discover and consider, often with group work and role playing to learn new skills and to reinforce what has been learned.

There is always much humor and many like me come to the program with their spouse or a good friend.

For those of you who devote much time and energy to a fitness regime and good nutrition please do not forget that the 3lbs of “squidgy” muscle called your brain deserves the same level of attention……………perhaps more!

So do not delay, these programs fill up fast. 

You will be welcome!

Please share this if you believe it would help someone. Call 1 843 842 6688 Memory Matters office for more information. It’s always confidential. Consider joining our next Brain Boosters program or finding our more about our Connections program. We are a phone call away, here in your local community.

WHERE PEOPLE FORGET TO DIE

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Mangiare per vivere e non vivere per mangiare.

Translation from the Italian: Eat to live and not live to eat.

This quotation is one I have debated with my Italian brother-in-law Davide. He is my  charming and much loved “partner in crime”, while traveling on our southern Mediterranean eating adventures. Davide prefers to say the reverse, that he “lives to eat”! You will have to trust your humble correspondent when I say that Davide is indeed an expert on the delightful southern Mediterranean cuisine!  He embodies everything that is good about the pleasure of growing, buying, preparing and cooking these healthy Mediterranean delicacies. More about this in a moment.

I often refer to my  Memory Matters Brain Boosters experience. Ten weekly sessions crammed full of interesting facts and brain exercises leaving knowledge to ponder a lifetime.

In this blog I have often referred to physical fitness, good sleep patterns, brain exercise and nutrition. This particular blog is all about nutrition.

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When our Memory Care Specialists lead the Brain Boosters program there is one complete section dedicated to nutrition. It is a lifestyle choice that can have a huge impact on brain health. For example, getting started each day with a healthy breakfast is very important. It increases blood sugar level and helps maintain mental clarity throughout the day. Conversely, low blood sugar interferes with brain functioning. So if you have special diet restrictions, take them seriously.

There is an old Italian saying that says: “He who would live long must sometimes change his way of living”

It has long been noted that people who live in the southern Mediterranean generally live healthier lives and live longer than those in northern Europe and the USA. A number of scientists and researchers have studied this concept and the most famous case in point is the Ikaria Greece study.

But what is the Mediterranean  diet? Briefly it consists of many “healthy” foods, including, but not limited to, seafood, poultry, fresh fruit, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, seeds and healthy fats like olive oil. There are some dairy foods included, but red meats, processed foods, snacks and deserts are downplayed. Pity because I love Tiramisu! Ah! But wine in moderation is included in the Mediterranean diet!

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The Mediterranean diet is not necessarily low-fat. It does emphasize healthy fats like Omega 3 found in many fish. e.g Salmon and Tuna.

Grains and Legumes are at the foundation. There are  so many to choose from and my friend Davide prepares them in so many delightful ways. Similarly fresh fruit and vegetables such as avocado, apples, strawberries, figs, fennel, carrots, fava (broad) beans and onions just to name a few.

Olive oil minimizes the use of saturated fats, and dairy products such as feta cheese and Greek yogurts are frequently included in the southern Mediterranean diet.

One last point learned at Brain Boosters is the use of spices and herbs. Spices such as tumeric adds flavor but it also may help boost the health of your brain.

Wherever possible Memory Matters is intentionally offering our Club Members, families and volunteers  a Mediterranean lunch diet. Our two caterers are working with us to provide, healthy but tasty meals. For example: delicious tuna sandwiches on whole-grain bread, served with fruit.

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The lessons from Ikaria Greece are most interesting and I will append just one article here for you to read. It was published in the New York Times Magazine in 2012 but there are many others to be found in a google search.

In summary, Ikarians eat a variation of the Mediterranean diet which consists of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and a little fish. One item featured is the local wild greens, many of which have ten times the level of antioxidants in green tea or red wine!

The New York Times article is entitled “The Island Where People Forget to Die”! It starts by telling the story of an Ickarian immigrant who while living in America, finds he has terminal lung cancer and returns to Ikaria to peacefully die. He never took chemotherapy but lived to 100 years, although his actual age is in doubt!

It concludes that in the 99 square mile island of Ikaria that their men are four times as likely as their American counterparts to reach an age of 90. But also they were living 8 to 10 years longer before succumbing to cancer or heart problems, AND there was less incidence of depression and dementia. On Ikaria people seem to avoid Alzheimer’s and other dementias! 

Two weeks ago I focussed on good sleep patterns. Well, it appears that on Ikaria and other parts of Greece following research there was evidence to suggest that physical exercise and good nutrition combined with relaxing sleep (including naps) reduced the incidence coronary disease by a significant percentage.

Please do read the NYT article to the end. It has one of the best “punch lines” I have ever read! Don’t spoil the story be peeking early! Promise? You too want to live to 100? Right? You have plenty of time to read the story!

NYT The Island Where People Forget To Die

Now let me go back to where I started this story and the debate with Davide. He agrees generally with the quotation’s intent “Eat to live (longer and healthier) rather than live to eat” (shorter and troubled).  However, in reality he sees nutrition as just one component of a healthy and trouble free longer life, and I agree.

So Davide “lives to eat” and when I am happily in his warm company, I have realized that I do too!  Here are the articulated thoughts of someone well educated (and experienced!) in eating well. To Davide, eating well, means eating tasteful food that mirrors these thoughts:

  1.  It is qualitative, fresh, organic, and cooked with care and attention for the properties of the ingredients, attention for the balance of flavour and harmony of the ingredients.
  2. Recipes are mostly simple, condiments are basic and natural (as much as possible).
  3.  Use of locally sourced and seasonal vegetables and fruits are essential parameters, whenever possible.
  4. Seasons play a big part: you eat products available in a given season and others in another season, as much as you can.
  5.  Locations play an important part too: temperatures, humidity, elevation (mountain, seaside, countryside etc..) and you determine the products available and their nutritional parameters (example: in winter in the mountain you would eat richer food than say in summer at the seaside).
  6. Earthly and not processed (or lightly processed) food, with little chemical manipulation, with mostly vegetables and fruits. These are key elements of a daily consumption, as are meats from organically fed animals, and simple foods rich in Omega 3, including non-farmed fish like sardines, anchovies, mackerels.

What you learn today directly from Davide is that eating in the southern Mediterranean is a pleasure! It is NOT a healthy obligation! People tend to eat as described above and frequent the local suppliers and farmers shops.

So these people become very selective, very hard to satisfy, very picky and therefore “organically conscious” hedonists! But Davide is more than just a pleasure seeking hedonist. I refuse to call him that!

So whether you subscribe to the “eat to live” or “live to eat” alternative quotation there is something to be learned from my dear “Italian partner in crime”.

May he live forever!

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Please share this if you believe it would help someone. Call 1 843 842 6688 Memory Matters office for more information. It’s always confidential. Consider joining our next Brain Boosters program. We are a phone call away here in your local community.

 

THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH

 

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This is my grandson George, a perfect role model demonstration as to how to relax and sleep! An appropriate introduction to my story.

We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.

William Shakespeare

From time to time I stray away from the Memory Matters daily programs and look more widely  for articles that you might find interesting. In each case however they have a relevance to dementia.

This article about the Fountain of Youth was first spotted by my wife Barbara, who herself knows something about the subject matter. Sleep deprivation! Now allegedly that has something to do with my “snoring” but joking apart, it is something that can cause  problems later in life. How we sleep, deeply or lightly; how many times a night we wake up; how restless we are, are all considered in a huge amount of research discussed in this recent TIME Health article.

I will copy some highlights here, but please read the whole article. It is most enlightening.

“Studies of people whose sleep sessions are irregular or short show they are at higher risk of developing diseases that can lead to early death, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. Poor sleep may have detrimental effects on the brain as well, increasing the risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, as well as mood disorders like depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety. And like smoking, a terrible diet and not exercising enough, poor sleep is now linked to an overall increased risk of premature death.

Despite the mounting evidence of its benefits, Americans are sleeping about two hours less each night than they did a century ago. Blame the technology-fueled 24/7 workplace, social media or the relentless news cycle, but about one-third of U.S. adults sleep less than the recommended seven hours daily, and 40% report feeling drowsy during the day, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The problem begins early: only 15% to 30% of U.S. teens get the 8½ hours a night recommended for adolescents.

The more nights you sleep, the more soothing the influence of sleep on that memory. Sleep continues to work on those emotional memories and flatten them out after about a week. Now there’s great evidence that PTSD is a disorder in which that process fails.

Fully understanding the role sleep plays in mental illness is a rich area of future research. Already many doctors think consistent, high-quality sleep can have a direct bearing on the health of those with mental illness. Anyone who suffers from moderate or significant mental-health concerns needs to be aware that sleep may be one of the most important things they can do.

TIME Health

In a blog entitled BrainFacts we find a common thread:

People spend much of their lives asleep. Sleep is vital to survival, and it helps the nervous system function properly. Studies reveal that when animals and people fail to get enough sleep, concentration, coordination, memory, and mood suffer. Additionally, sleep issues often affect people with psychiatric and neurological disorders. Recent studies are revealing how brain cells and chemicals work together to regulate sleep and the changes that take place in the brain when a person is sleep-deprived. Using advanced molecular, cellular, and brain imaging technologies, researchers are exploring the activity of different brain regions during sleep, and how certain events and disorders alter sleep states. This information could lead to new treatments for sleep disorders — which affect millions worldwide — and deeper understanding of the relationship between sleep and various diseases.

Those of you who, like my wife and I, wear a Fitbit or Garmin sports watch will know that by wearing the watch in bed you can track your light and deep sleep sessions and general wakefulness. The results do not always make for happy reading (!) but it does encourage you to work on getting regular good sleep.

Having read the article I wonder just how parents today would respond? Peer pressure often causes them to give their children technology and subsequently entry to social media that can be really detrimental, and it will probably be another thirty to forty years from now before we see if our children and grand-children’s sleep deprivation has contributed to a disease including early onset Alzheimer’s.

Food for thought?!

So fast forward now to our Memory Matters Brain Boosters program.

Here’s some of what you learn in our Brain Boosters program:

  • What is normal brain aging?
  • When might you need to see a doctor?
  • Techniques to sharpen your focus.
  • Relaxation techniques.
  • How to stop the worry and become a flexible thinker.
  • How to improve your nutrition and diet.
  • Special do’s and don’ts for protecting your brain.

When Cathee lead the class we attended much of what we learned is relevant to the Time Health article I refer to in this blog. Below I quote from the Brain Boosters program.

“Try Not To Worry”!

Worrying is useless. It serves absolutely no purpose. The only time you can make a difference in your life is now. The past is gone and the future has not happened yet. Don’t us your present time worrying about things you cannot control.

Make no mistake, planning is not worrying. Planning is when you lay down the steps needed to create a desired future. Worrying is when you stress out about something that has happened or hasn’t happened yet. It really impacts your sleep pattern!

Instead of worrying, meditate, practice gratitude, become still, listen to your soul, and surround yourself with love.

The moral in the story is to make sure that we stimulate our brain throughout life. Engaging socially, person to person, (as opposed to social media) and continuing education   in programs such as Brain Boosters, to name but one, is good brain exercise!

Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace.

Victor Hugo

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Please share this if you believe it would help someone. Call 1 843 842 6688 Memory Matters office for more information. It’s always confidential. Consider joining our next Brain Boosters program. We are a phone call away here in your local community.

 

 

 

THE 51st STATE OF THE UNION

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Somedays are simply better than others!  When the sun shines in the Low Country on a warm winters day, with temperatures hovering around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and our Club members smile and greet us (the Memory Matters Staff and Volunteers) around 10am at the start of the Connections Club day, you just know its going to be a good day!

I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I’d like to hold it in my arms
And keep it company

Bill Backer

As a regular volunteer in the Connections program I find it interesting and warmly rewarding to reflect on the morning greeting. Yes, we are greeting the Club Members but in a shift of roles I always see them greeting us. There is always an air of expectancy on this Thursday adventure and it bubbles over during the greeting session and convivial conversation that takes place over beverages, fresh fruit and cookies.

The word camaraderie comes easily to mind. The word is defined as “mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together”. Perfect!

So here is another typically exciting day which I will try and chronicle for you the reader. Remember, the Connections Club caters for those with mild cognitive memory impairment or early dementia diagnosis. We also welcome those who suffer Parkinson’s disease.

Cathee is one of our Memory Care Specialists and is responsible for organizing and leading the Connections Club programs on both Monday’s and Thursdays each week.

We started by asking the Club members to report back on what they had achieved in the last week to practice their organization skills. These reports included tax preparation, drawer cleaning and tidying, garage cleaning and in one case completing an extensive “to do” list the Club Member had constructed with his wife. This new 2017 practice of setting some ‘homework’ appears to be working since our friends are beginning to follow up really well and should be commended  for the effort they are making to exercise their brains in between Connections Club classes.

Cathee then challenged us all (Club Members and Volunteers!) to resolve a question. A series of 15 statements all pointed to one single object. We had to determine what the object was. It transpired to be a “safety pin”. We were then challenged to think laterally as to what uses a safety pin could have, beyond babies diapers and replacing a button. Suffice to say that after ten minutes we collectively produced close to forty responses. If this sounds easy to you the reader just try coming up with more than forty answers and send them to me in the comment field of this blog. I would like to cross reference them with our Club Members responses.

Following this opening session there was time for our professionally led yoga class and the reading of some lovely poems and short essays by local elementary and middle school children. They all focussed on the beauty of flora and fauna of our amazing Port Royal Sound area. I would say we concluded that our local public schools are doing an outstanding job in educating the youth of today.

There was time for a few songs: “I’d like to teach the world to sing”, “You are my sunshine” and “Don’t let the sun catch you crying”.  No-one was in the mood for crying on this sunny day!

After lunch we split into three groups and Cathee encouraged more lateral thinking. We were tasked with inventing the 51st State of the Union.  As a minimum we had to choose a state flower, animal and flag. Finally we had to draw the state flag.

Well, this exercise turned into more fun than I would have ever imagined! Not content with flags, flowers and state animals we added: state mottos, birds, fish, industry, governing rules, Mayors and one King! It developed into a hilarious afternoon and I cannot possibly write down everything that was contributed, but when Cathee invited the three groups to present their new States she then sought to find reasons to join them into a mini country comprising the three states. That too was a great exercise and the answers were fast coming, thoughtful and insightful.

As I wrap this post I would like to give a “shout-out” to the volunteers from Wells Fargo bank who kindly gave of their time and actively contributed on this day. One of our Board Members (Chip Simons) kindly arranged this visit and I would like to suggest that if other businesses would like to get to know more about Memory Matters and give up a few hours of their employees time to observe this not-for-profit community business in action, then that would be hugely appreciated.

Please share this if you believe it would help someone. Call 1 843 842 6688 Memory Matters office for more information. It’s always confidential.

 

HOW TO EXERCISE THE BRAIN

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“You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace.”
― Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes

This week I’m continuing the theme I started last week in writing about “Brain Fitness”.  Remember, that 3lb little muscle that Memory Specialist Cathee describes as “squidgy”, can do simply amazing things that not even the best NASA computers can achieve. However, this 68 year old is prepared to admit that as time goes by the squidgy little guy in my head sometimes needs maintenance!

Why not? Well I’m currently working at the gym with my physical trainer to exercise every other muscle in my body, some of which I didn’t know existed judging from the pain I’m going through each week!  But the little guy up top needs special attention and I watch enthralled as my friends and mentors at Memory Matters open my eyes each week to new ways to achieve this goal.

For example every Connections Club program has a professional yoga instructor who leads the club members, (our participants) through a routine that exercises the body for about 45 minutes. It’s a non-impact routine and quite safe. It encourages those positive energy signals which originate in the brain and cause our endorphins “to go on vacation”. At least that’s my laymans description of the positive euphoric charge that occurs with yoga, including purposeful meditation.

Good brain health and fitness requires more than yoga. It requires significant stimulating exercise, and that is what we provide.

To anyone reading this with a clear healthy brain some of what I am writing might sound trivial or at best, obvious, but this is not the case. Let me give you some examples just from this week. You will recall that a week ago we challenged the Connections Club Members to establish a New Year resolution to learn something new, and to focus their minds on striving to practice it at home, before reporting progress back to us the following week.

This week was only moderately successful, so we will persevere!

One gentleman was remarkably open and transparent. He wanted to improve his conversational ability in 2017 because he recognizes that in so doing he will exercise his brain and sharpen his memory. He confided that he still had some way to go to achieve his goal. He knew he had to learn how to initiate conversations. Now as an aside, I will tell you that in my opinion he is very sociable and a good conversationalist once he gets started! But HE wants to improve his initiation skills.

So what we did was to set up pairs of people throughout the Club and ask them to engage in conversation with each other. We gave them three simple conversational questions to use plus a check list of things to focus on. Focus – listening- questioning and confirming answers- eye contact- encouraging responses, not interrupting, and speaking of associations. E.g. “Oh yes, I have two brothers and they all live in New Jersey too”. After the mini conversations  we asked them to tell us what they had learned from each other.

I would say the results were excellent. While those with only mild cognitive memory loss could repeat most of what they learned, others found it more stretching. Most pleasing was the intensity of their effort to seriously follow our guidance and exercise their brains. I saw people totally engaged and focused.

Dementia is such a tough problem. Imagine that even mild memory loss can be so frustrating to the sufferer. I can think of two people who travel to our program together every week but can sometimes forget each other’s names! These same people have bought into memory care and exercise of that “squidgy” little  muscle.

For all of us with “normal brain health”, learning to exercise the little guy is vitally important. I’m not suggesting that such exercise is a guaranteed preventative solution for dementia avoidance. That would be naive, but  it really can help and my friends at Memory Matters are uniquely positioned to assist you in developing your own exercise regime.

One final thought for today. The people entrusted to our care by the caregivers are special people. I really enjoy working with them and sharing childhood and other family stories. When we are not challenging their brains with exercises we socialize, sing, play some games, talk trivia and generally have a lot of fun. After all, laughter is another sure way to get those endorphins buzzing happily in our bodies.

As a volunteer working with the Club Members I know I speak for all my fellow volunteers when I say that every day is rewarding. Watching them strive to improve their memory and continue to play an active role in society is wonderful. Being a volunteer helps each and everyone of us exercise our minds in helping others perhaps less fortunate.

If you are reading my blog for the first or perhaps thirtieth time, and are someone who would like to challenge themselves anew, please give us a call and maybe come and observe a typical day at Memory Matters. You might like what you see and hear and become a volunteer too!

If you think this blog would help someone you know, please share it.

We can be contacted at 1 843 842 6688 or go on-line to our website where you can learn more about us and ask questions on our contact page via email. The website http://www.memory-matters.org has an events page which includes upcoming 20th Anniversary celebration dates and detail. A similar list can be found at the end of this blog site.

BRAIN FITNESS

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“Don’t count the days, make the days count!”

-Muhammed Ali

Like many of you, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to improve my fitness. Last year’s frequent personal travel to Europe was not conducive to keeping fit or going to the gym, so this year is going to to be different! Right?! Well, I resigned with my friend and personal trainer John Duberley of TruFit over at the Power House Gym and he assures me that I can recover my fitness and take off the er……few pounds that I put on last year. If a US Navy Veteran tells you this, it is wise to listen up!

Now John is a pragmatic optimist and believes in more than physical fitness. He is insistent that my exercise must be supplemented by a controlled and consistent nutritious diet. He told me in no uncertain words that it was the key to good physical and mental health.  So it was appropriate for me to tell him about Memory Matters first 20th Anniversary event of 2017, namely the Memory Fest on January 12th at the Hilton Head Beach and Tennis Club. At once his ears pricked up and he questioned me closely on what we hoped to achieve. He became so interested that both he and his girlfriend (another Personal Trainer) actually gave up a whole day to come and listen to the presentation by Cathee, Melissa and Karen.  They also brought two enthusiastic fitness guests.

They were not disappointed, and spent three hours in our company and that of at least 150 more folk who joined us for the presentation.

As John put it to me, people will spend much time and money on physical fitness and nutrition but will they spend an equal amount of time on Brain Health? The answer is usually “no”. He understands why it is so important to keep that “squiggy” little 3lbs of muscle in top form.

The Fest drew from Memory Matters Brain Booster program that I have mentioned before and personally attended together with my wife Barbara. Brain Boosters runs for ten weeks, just a couple of hours a week crammed full of surprises that will get your brains attention in more ways than one. At $199 for the complete program its a steal.

On Thursday we learned the outline:

  • How our brain learns and remembers
  • How emotions impact your brain and memory
  • How automatic negative thoughts (ANTS) can be controlled to improve brain function.

If you have not signed up for the next Brain Boosters program commencing on January 26th, now is the time to do so. It runs from 10.30am to 12 noon one day per week for ten weeks. Just like keeping physically fit and eating well this program applies at any age.

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Prior to joining Memory Fest in the afternoon I was engaged in my usual volunteer role with the Connections Club at Memory Matters. There the Club Members, with either early diagnosis of dementia or mild cognitive impairment, get to stretch and stimulate their brains in a failure free environment.

Now reflecting back on the Memory Fest topics, I do not recall anyone of our Club Members expressing negative thoughts! Rather they were happy to be socializing, learning, and trying to remember their friends names by association or imagery and, they were endeavoring to set New Year memory resolutions for themselves. Some Club Members wrote down four or more resolutions but we challenged them to each remember just one and to pursue it through the whole of 2017. Every week we will return to the resolutions to follow up.  No-one person chose anything too stretching or impossible. Some people chose to read a particular type of book or story, others to listen to a new piece of music or complete a crossword puzzle. Perhaps they want to explore some new place to vacation in. The point was that we were searching for them to a) challenge themselves and b) if possible, seek to do something new.

I always like to play a little music whenever I volunteer and on Thursday I encouraged a new Club member to join me in singing a song with the other Club members. He said he didn’t sing……………but you know he did! It was really gratifying to see the pleasure on his face when he achieved something he thought impossible.

If you believe that the content of this post will help someone please pass it on. If you know of someone who needs confidential help just ask them too call us at 1 843 842 6688. The number is on the front page of our website http://www.memory-matters.org.