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.

 

CONNECTIONS CLUB: THEIR FAVORITE MUSIC

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“I Believe”  Elvis Presley
I believe for every drop of rain that falls
A flower grows
I believe that somewhere in the darkest night
A candle glows
I believe for everyone who goes astray, someone will come
To show the way
I believe, I believe

I believe above a storm the smallest prayer
Can still be heard
I believe that someone in the great somewhere
Hears every word

Everytime I hear a new born baby cry,
Or touch a leaf or see the sky
Then I know why, I believe

A few weeks ago, in a blog entitled “Music to My Ears”, I wrote about the encouraging studies both in the US and Europe with regard to the positive impact personalized music playlists can have on a dementia sufferer and the help it can give to caregivers working with a loved one. 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 people.  Their 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 behavior and less need for medication.

Maureen Gleason is one of our wonderful Memory Care Specialists and was particularly  inspired to explore this new idea with our Connections Club program members.

So last Thursday Maureen and the volunteers patiently encouraged each Club member to list their ten most favorite songs or music passages. This transpired to be a really engaging and enjoyable process for us all. Maureen intends to share the results with our Caregivers.

So here is the combined list of our collective most popular songs or pieces of music. As you can see it is quite eclectic!

Memory Matters Group Playlist- Top favorites in the Connections Club

I have purposely deleted the Club members names from the list

  1. When a Man Loves a Woman (Percy Sledge
  2. Cold Cold Heart (Hank Williams)
  3. God Bless America (Irving Berlin)
  4. Heart Aches by the Numbers (Guy Mitchell)
  5. Show me the way to go Home (Frank Crumit)
  6. Desperado (Eagles)
  7. Hotel California (Eagles)
  8. I Believe (Elvis Presley)
  9. You are my Sunshine (Johnny Cash)
  10. Margaritaville (Jimmy Buffet)
  11. I Can’t Stop Loving you (Ray Charles)
  12. Forever in Blue Jeans (Neil Diamond)
  13. How Great Thou Art
  14. Beethoven’s 9th
  15. I am so Blessed (Karen Drucker)
  16. Like a Rolling Stone (Bob Dylan)
  17. Feeling Groovy (Simon & Garfunkel)

Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, his last and most famous choral work made the list. Perhaps the “Ode To Joy” will be played more often at Memory Matters!

Now I would really appreciate my readers engaging in this process! Please respond on our Facebook page, Memory Matters website, or simply to volunteermike.com in a comment:

  1. FROM THE CLUB LIST ABOVE,  WHICH IS YOUR FAVORITE SONG OR PIECE OF MUSIC?

  2. WHAT IS YOUR ALL-TIME FAVORITE SONG?

Your answers will assist in our on-going program. THANK YOU! 😀👍

Meanwhile our Club’s all-time favorite recorded by dozens including Johnny Cash and Bing Crosby is:

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away…

Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell in 1939

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.

 

 

 

PHYSICAL EXERCISE FOR BRAIN HEALTH

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Now this looks like exercise!

This is another blog in my series on “Brain Health”. Last week we studied a first class up-to-date university research program into the benefits of olive oil, arguably the most important ingredient in the Mediterranean lifestyle and diet. We shared a cooking and dining experience at Sun City, we listed all the principal ingredients and, we took an explicit look at what this means to someone who desires to live a southern Mediterranean lifestyle here in the Lowcountry. As in previous blogs on this subject, my writing was based upon the real life experience of my brother-in-law Davide who lives the southern Italian lifestyle to the full extent. To be with him and experience simple, rustic, inviting and healthy food is a joy in life. Davide provides us with his wisdom based upon his own living reality.

In addition to eating fabulous food my friend Davide believes in physical exercise too! Good nutrition coupled with moderate physical exercise and good brain exercise are the three vital elements to improved health and minimizing the risk of heart disease and/or dementia.

So let’s take a look at physical exercise.

WALKING SHARPENS YOUR BRAIN!

Walking for exercise may become increasingly important as we age and our risk for dementia and other brain disorders increases. It can even help reverse the effects of aging. A study published  in the Annals of Neurology found that the 69 participants ages 55–88 who who met the exercise guidelines set by the American Heart Association showed a significantly lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

To improve your cognition even more, and in a safe controlled environment, try walking backward! Be “faster on your feet” and in your amazing brain!

DR.NEIL BARNARD

Neal D. Barnard is an American doctor, author, clinical researcher, and founding president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. As of 2015, he is an adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. He founded the Barnard Medical Center in 2016.

In his TED talk, Dr. Neil Barnard gives simple to follow and practical ways we can avoid dementia, including Alzheimer’s. He speaks to the power of food and how the right food can offset or negate the slow build up of brain disease. He emphasizes the need to eat the right foods to get the correct vitamin balance as opposed to buying vitamins over the counter which can limit their effectiveness. However he also emphasizes the need for us to walk briskly three times per week. He suggests starting with brisk ten minute walks and building up to three forty minutes per outing.

Why? Dr. Barnard points to important research completed by the University of Illinois  where 120 adults were brought in and given controlled memory tests and brain scans to establish a base line. Then the adults were asked undertake regular exercise. After one year the same 120 adults received a new memory test and brain scan.

Guess what! In each case their memory had improved and instead of normal aging shrinkage of the hippocampus, (the vital part of the brain that is the “seat of memory”) it had increased in size! Wow!

DR.JOSEPH JEBELLI: “IN PURSUIT OF MEMORY – THE FIGHT AGAINST ALZHEIMER’S”

This book has recently been published in Britain and will become available in the US later this year. Not surprisingly the author has reached similar conclusions:

He quotes a University of Pittsburg study of 120 people over the age of 67 and had them perform moderate aerobic exercise for three days a week. Strikingly, a follow up MRI scan revealed that those who exercised netted a 2% increase in the size of their hippocampus. This compares with an average 1.5% reduction in size for this  age group! The middleman in this victory was the BDNF protein (brain derived neurotrophic factor) which is known to create the birth of new neurons and synapses throughout the entire nervous system. The author also points to similar research at the University of Sussex, England, where a systematic review of the effect of moderate exercise yielded positive results in people already diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The exercise ranged from 30 minutes of walking four times a week for fifteen weeks, to 30 minutes of vigorous calisthenics every day for twelve weeks. For those who were of the age where walking is a chore, they found even gentle Tai Chi was worthwhile.

The fact that low and high intensity exercise brought improvement speaks volumes.

The conclusion was “follow a Mediterranean diet, exercise, avoid stress, stimulate your mind and ……sleep well”.

JOURNAL OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

On June 26th this year Time magazine reported about the study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. They found that people who did more moderate intensity physical activity were more likely to have healthy patterns of of glucose metabolism in their brains – a sign of healthy brain activity. The authors found that large doses of high-intensity exercise may be needed to offer the benefits of a “modest increase” in moderate activity, suggesting that you don’t have to exercise in the extreme to benefit your brain!

DRUGS?

From 2000 to 2012, indeed, it’s estimated that about 99% of all newly developed “dementia drugs” failed to pass their clinical trials. For all the news headlines about “a cure for Alzheimer’s”, this goal remains fugitive.

SOLUTION?!

IMG_0133 We are certainly NOT without hope! It has been proven that nutritious food and physical exercise does make a positive difference to our long term cognitive ability. We have it in our own hands to help ourselves, our children and grandchildren.

At Memory Matters our vision is to optimize Brain Wellness and our mission  to achieve this vision is quickly moving forward.

To find out more, please call us at 1843 842 6688 and make an appointment to come and see us. We are your Lowcountry memory care resource with 20 years of experience, and care. You can also visit our website which describes all the programs and events at our not-for-profit organization, www.memory-matters.org, or find up to the minute information on our business Facebook page.

Thank you so much for reading this blog!

Enjoy eating well and your moderate exercise, and please do exercise your amazing brain!

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.

 

 

FEED YOUR BRAIN WITH OLIVE OIL: Benefit with improved brain health!

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Above photo was taken last week at the Memory Matters Mediterranean Lifestyle & Cooking demonstration at Sun City.

This short blog is merely an “overture” to a story that is older than written history. I refer to the story of olives and wine in the southern Mediterranean before I fast forward to today and describe the postive benefits that olive oil in particular can bring to those who embrace the Mediterranean lifestyle.

The “extra virgin” oil that is cold pressed from the olives has been the principal source of healthy nourishment in Greece, and southern Italy for thousands of years. Today we can include southern France and Spain too. Olive oil is the most fundamentally important ingredient in the Mediterranean lifestyle diet. There is substantial evidence to prove that people who follow the Mediterranean lifestyle live longer, with less incidence of heart disease, other ailments or dementia, and on average experience healthier lives than those living in Northern Europe and other parts of Western  Civilization including the USA. In fact I wrote a blog about this back in March entitled “Where People Forget to Die”. It contains important research data to back up the claims made by proponents of the Mediterranean diet, and you can count Memory Matters as one of those enthusiasts.

The olive was native to Asia Minor and spread from Iran, Syria and Palestine to the rest of the Mediterranean basin 6,000 years ago. It is among the oldest known cultivated trees in the world.  It was being grown on Crete by 3,000 BC and may have been the source of the wealth of the Minoan kingdom. The Phoenicians spread the olive to the Mediterranean shores of Africa and Southern Europe. Olives have been found in Egyptian tombs from 2,000 years BC. The olive culture was spread to the early Greeks and then the Romans. As the Romans extended their domain they brought the olive with them.

This story also mentions wine. Yes, taken in moderation, wine is an important part of the Mediterranean lifestyle! Two five ounce glasses per day is a typical recommendation for those who like me, enjoy wine.

Like the olive, the grape arrived in the southern Mediterranean a long time ago. Wine arrived with civilization from the East and the Egyptian tombs and paintings are evidence. Then in the Mediterranean world developed first by the Phoenicians and later the Greeks, viticulture and wine production blossomed and, of course, the Romans added their disciplined and practical abilities to the creative flair of the Greeks. So wine became a huge industry vitally important throughout the southern Mediterranean and was promoted by the Church and especially the Benedictine, Cistercian and Franciscan orders.

This “chronicle” is in four parts, namely:

  1.  A discussion of what comprises the “Mediterranean diet”.
  2.  A short review of a recent and thoroughly enjoyable cooking demonstration sponsored by Memory Matters in Sun City.
  3. Importantly an up-to-date account of how a US University research team has made dramatic progress in the fight to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. You will not be surprised to hear that extra virgin olive oil is front and center of this exciting progress!
  4. Imagination. Just for fun, I will conclude by taking you on a short “imagined” journey to sample the Mediterranean lifestyle in southern Italy!

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.

 

1. The Mediterranean lifestyle diet includes:

Lots of plant foods
Fresh fruit as dessert
High consumption of beans, nuts, cereals (in the form of wheat, oats, barley, corn or brown rice) and seeds
Olive oil as the main source of dietary fat
Cheese and yogurt as the main dairy foods. Feta cheese and Greek yogurt are prime examples.
Moderate amounts of fish and poultry
No more than about four eggs each week
Small amounts of red meat each week (compared to northern Europe)
Low to moderate amounts of wine. It is suggested that be no more than two five ounce glasses per day.
25% to 35% of calorie intake consists of fat
Saturated fat makes up no more than 8% of calorie intake

Fats – the Mediterranean diet is known to be low in saturated fat, high in monounsaturated fat, and high in dietary fiber.

Legumes – the Mediterranean diet includes plenty of legumes. Legumes are plants in the pea family that produce pods which slit open naturally along a seam, revealing a row of seeds.

Examples of legumes include peas, chick peas, lentils, alfafa, fava (broad) beans and green beans.

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Even if you have not yet had the opportunity to travel to Italy or other southern Mediterranean regions, it is important to note that people there are discerning, and live to eat. Eating should be a pleasure! 

In regions such as Umbria and Apulia in Italy food choice is simple and rustic but still 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.
Recipes are mostly simple, condiments are basic and natural (as much as possible). Salt is used judiciously since many organic foods already have salt content. So why add more!
The use of locally sourced and seasonal vegetables and fruits are essential parameters. If they are on sale at your local farmers market, it’s a good time to buy!
Their seasons play a big part: you eat products available in a given season and others in another season.
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).
They choose 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 sea bass (Branzino) shrimp, sardines or squid. In our fantastic Lowcountry we would choose shrimp, grouper, snapper, trout, and mackerels.

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I learned from my Italian relatives that eating in the southern Mediterranean is a pleasure! It is NOT a healthy obligation! However look at the benefits:

  • improved cognitive function with decreases in dementia
  • protection against heart disease
  • help to control blood pressure and cholesterol
  • protection against many kinds of cancer and diabetes
  • reduced obesity
  • reduced risk of dementia including Alzheimer’s
  • reduced risk of arthritis
  • reduced risk of depression

All the five senses controlled by our amazing brain are active when pairing nutritious food, wine and music (never forget the power of music therapy!) in harmony. Scientists have proven that our memory functions work better when we use all or at least multiple senses to store memory.

2. Brain Health: Mediterranean Lifestyle & Cooking demonstration at Sun City.

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We recently commenced a new series of practical demonstrations at Sun City. The series is entitled “Brain Health with Memory Matters” and the first in the series was “The Mediterranean Lifestyle & Cooking”. It featured a live cooking demonstration by one of our volunteers, Chef Kim Baretta. Kim is a trained Chef with extensive experience in catering and teaching cooking classes in the US and London, England. She has also worked in Paris, France. Kim gave a tremendously enjoyable and informative demonstration that, without exaggeration, garnered rave reviews from around seventy attendees!

The demonstration included a Mediterranean style lunch being served, paired with a red wine. The complete entree comprised half an aubergine (eggplant) stuffed with ground lean lamb and lentils, and other mouth watering ingredients were extra virgin olive oil, onion, minced garlic, diced green pepper, diced plum tomatoes, cumin, mint, red chili flakes, salt and pepper, brown rice, Italian parsley and freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese.

A Tzatziki was prepared to spoon on top of the finished entree and the ingredients were fat free Greek yogurt, English cucumber, garlic, white wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, fresh mint, salt and pepper.

The eggplant and tzatziki were complimented with a full Greek salad topped with feta cheese. The empty plates seemed to confirm the guests enjoyment and Chef Kim further complimented the entree with fresh macerated strawberries drizzled with a blend of lemon juice and high quality aged balsamic vinegar.

For those of you who would like to know more about the Memory Matters Brain Health programs and demonstrations at Sun City, please contact Debbie Anderson at 1 843 842 6688.

3. The results of a recent US university study into the benefits of extra virgin olive oil in the fight to find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

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The following good news is “hot off the press” and was published in Medical News Today

I have summarized the key findings but please read the whole published account by clicking on the link for Medical News Today.

The new  research explores the neurological benefits of extra-virgin olive oil and finds that it may help to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
New research suggests that extra-virgin olive oil – a key component of the Mediterranean diet – may protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. Mouse experiments revealed changes in both cognitive performance and the appearance of nerve cells.

The new research moves closer to a prevention – and potentially reversing – strategy, by studying the effects of extra-virgin olive oil on the cognitive performance and brain health of mice.

The new study – published in the journal Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology – was carried out by a team of researchers from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM) in Philadelphia, PA.

Lead investigator Dr. Domenico Praticò – a professor in the departments of Pharmacology and Microbiology and the Center for Translational Medicine at LKSOM – explains why several studies have singled out olive oil and hailed it as the main reason why the Mediterranean diet is linked to so many health benefits.

“The thinking is that extra-virgin olive oil is better than fruits and vegetables alone, and as a monounsaturated vegetable fat it is healthier than saturated animal fats,” he says.

Studying the effect of olive oil in mice

Dr. Praticò and team used a traditional Alzheimer’s transgenic mouse model to study the effect of the oil. The rodents were genetically modified to have the three main characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease: memory impairment, the buildup of amyloid plaques, and neurofibrillary tangles.

Neurofibrillary tangles are the result of twisted strands of a protein called tau. In a healthy brain, tau helps with the transportation of nutrients and other molecules that the brain cells need. In Alzheimer’s disease, this protein gets tangled up inside the brain cells, which happen to be dying because essential nutrients no longer reach them.

Amyloid plaques are the result of the excess production and buildup of beta-amyloid, a fragment of the protein called “amyloid precursor protein.” In Alzheimer’s disease, these plaques build up in the spaces between neurons.

Dr. Praticò and colleagues split the rodents into two groups: one group was fed a chow diet with extra-virgin olive oil, and the other group received a regular chow diet with no added oil.

Alzheimer’s characteristics begin to develop in a rodent model quite early on, so in this experiment, the oil was added to the diet when the mice were 6 months old, before any symptoms could have appeared.

The researchers evaluated the mice’s cognitive abilities by administering tests for their spatial memory, working memory, and learning skills.

Olive oil preserves brain cell health

In terms of general appearance, no differences were noted between the two animal groups.

But, when the mice were 9 months and 12 months old, the mice that had been fed the extra-virgin olive oil diet performed much better in the cognitive tests.

Dr. Praticò and his team also analyzed the brain tissue of these mice, and the studies revealed striking differences between the appearance and functioning of the nerve cells.

Firstly, the integrity of the synapses – which are the parts of the brain cell that facilitate communication among neurons – was preserved much better in the olive oil group. Secondly, the brain tissue in the mice fed olive oil revealed a “dramatic increase” in the autophagy activation of the nerve cells.

Autophagy is a process that sees nerve cells disintegrate and eliminate the toxic debris that tends to accumulate between the cells.

In this experiment, the increase in autophagy led to a decrease in the amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau.

Dr. Praticò says, “This is an exciting finding for us. Thanks to the autophagy activation, memory, and synaptic integrity were preserved, and the pathological effects in animals otherwise destined to develop Alzheimer’s disease were significantly reduced.”

“This is a very important discovery, since we suspect that a reduction in autophagy marks the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Dr. Domenico Praticò

Next, the researchers plan to introduce olive oil at a later stage, when Alzheimer’s symptoms will have already emerged. In the case of mice, this would mean at 12 months of age.

“Usually when a patient sees a doctor for suspected symptoms of dementia, the disease is already present,” Dr. Praticò explains. “We want to know whether olive oil added at a later time point in the diet can stop or reverse the disease.”

4. Imagine!

The discovery described in this Temple University study offers hope for the future, but there is a long way to go. As I wrote in my opening paragraph, the story of the olive and its oil is older than written history. Over thousands of years it has prospered and been a healthy food to millions of people. That history certainly encourages us to hope! So let us now take a short imaginary tour and dwell in the land of the olive……………………………..

Imagine traveling south in Italy during a Tuscan summer, pausing along the way to revel in the remarkable history and stunningly beautiful countryside peppered with cypress trees, standing like Roman sentinels shimmering in the sun, and immersed in fields of girasol. Why venture even further south while being mesmerized by the enchanting Tuscan medieval hilltop towns where the food and wine too are simply wonderful?

But you the brave traveler, in search of the quintessential Mediterranean lifestyle, will leave behind the charms of Tuscany’s Siena, Pienza, Montalcino and Cortona – to name but four –and travel further south, into Umbria, Lazio and maybe Apulia with its “white towns” such as Ostuni, owing much to early Greek development. You will be rewarded!  An abundance of historic places to discover and explore, fabulous renaissance art, mountains, lovely rustic countryside, and a seemingly endless choice of great places to relax and dine simply, but gloriously, while soaking up the unique ambiance.

In Umbria you soon arrive in Assisi, the final resting place of St. Francis, where in a beautiful Duomo you stand transfixed by the mighty and evocative frescoes painted by Giotto. Close by Assisi and clinging to the western side of the alkaline limestone Apennine Mountains you find Trevi, a tiny hillside town which arguably is the center of one of the southern Mediteranean’s finest olive oils! Stop, linger and enjoy! 

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So just like my imaginary Italian traveler please do take the time to study and enjoy the Mediterranean lifestyle and its olive oil basis. All the indications are that it is really beneficial to the health of your brain!

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.

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

 

 

THE SOUNDS OF MUSIC!

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The Sun City Dulcimers and one of our Compass Club Members singing Amazing Grace.

Please note that I am separately posting a video of this event.  It is essential viewing !

To all our volunteer musicians: Thank you for the music!

I’m nothing special, in fact I’m a bit of a bore
If I tell a joke, you’ve probably heard it before
But I have a talent, a wonderful thing
Cause everyone listens when I start to sing
I’m so grateful and proud
All I want is to sing it out loud

So I say
Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing
Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing
Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty
What would life be?
Without a song or a dance what are we?
So I say thank you for the music
For giving it to me.

From the song by ABBA

We play and sing music every day in our memory care center. We dance too, and then sometimes we sing karaoke style as the words appear on our big screen.

We sing while we exercise our bodies and we listen to patriotic music and watch an exercise team performing in time to the music.

Then on other days there are guest appearances from wonderful local choirs, bell ringers who have amazing chimes, and other talented musicians.

Nine years ago our Memory Care Specialist and Administrative Officer-the lovely Melissa- joined Memory Matters and brought with her Dale Nordby and “The Band” together with the amazing Norm Reeves who has just turned 101 years of age. Norm provides funny stories, ministry and prayer. The Band recently lost its wonderful bass player Pete but Dale, Desi and Joe continue to provide enjoyable and inspirational music to the Memory Matters Club members every Friday morning. Songs like “Wagon Wheel” which everyone likes to dance and singalong with, to the moving “Surely the presence of The Lord is in this place”. “The Band” as we know and love them were once called the Island Chaplain Minstrels and they still play and sing at Preston Hall in the Cypress community too.

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In the photo above are Dale, Norm and Desi with Cathee (never shy!) entertaining  our Club members. 

We are blessed to have Dale and his friends join us for other events too. e.g the Annual Volunteer Appreciation Party.

On Tuesday’s we are joined by the Memory Matters Merry Minstrels comprising any number of people and led by Kirby Sullivan. Regular contributors are Annie, Mike, Frank, Gregg and Bob. They even invite Volunteer Mike to play with them!

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Kirby and friends: The Memory Matters Merry Minstrels.

We have wonderful choirs who visit on a regular basis, and these include the Belfair Singers.

The Sun City Rafferty Singers are a welcome group too as are another group from Sun City called “The Chimers”.

Another of our volunteers – Trish Elliot – plays violin and on a Monday will sometimes bring with her friends who play stringed instruments and the flute.

At every Thursday Connections class the lovely Gayle leads her custom designed yoga class that ends with therapeutic music and meditation

A Message to all Pianists in our Community

We have a beautiful Grand Piano in the memory care facility and we are currently searching for a volunteer pianist to entertain our Club members for up to an hour each week. If you are interested in volunteering you will be welcome! Please call Pat Cleary if you are interested in learning more. 1 843 842 6688.

We have so many artists and professionals who freely give of their time and talent to help our Club members living with memory loss, and I would be remiss if I did not include three fantastic solo guitarists who are regular contributors, namely Mitch, John and the amazing Dr. Paul!

 

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Above in the colorful hat is our friend Mitch.

This last Tuesday we enjoyed a unique musical interlude from my niece Efa Harris-Davies who is visiting us from Wales. Now everyone knows that there are no finer voices anywhere in the world than those from the Welsh Valleys, and Efa proved that she is carrying forward this noble tradition. Volunteer Mike somehow managed to provide the backing to Efa’s beautiful rendition of the Welsh National Anthem (“Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” or “Land of my Fathers” in English). Efa sang in Welsh and then unaccompanied sang an enchanting version of the Welsh Hymn “Calon Lan” which translated means “A Pure Heart”. I must admit to being enthralled by Calan Lan, and later, prompted by Efa, showed a video recording of a 133 voice Welsh Boys Choir singing the song at “Britain’s got Talent” It is a captivating performance by “Only Boys Aloud” and the Club members loved it. So I played it again for the Club Members on Thursday who clapped and cheered the inspirational performance! I am attaching the link so that others might enjoy this too. Calon Lan

Efa Harris-Davies

Last week we were entertained to a virtuoso performance on the Clarinet by Volunteer Bob’s grand daughter Rachael.

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IMG_2565Bob and Rachael

Wednesday was another special musical day. We were joined and entertained by the Sun City Dulcimers. Wow! These folk are fantastic!

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The Sun City Dulcimers with our Club members

Here is a little background to their music:

During the period from 1700 to the mid-1800’s, early forms of the mountain dulcimer were developed in the Shenandoah River Valley region of southwestern Pennsylvania and western Virginia. These early forms were a blend of British and Scottish musical traditions and European folk instruments, especially the German scheitholt and the Swedish hummel. The mountain dulcimer is classified as a diatonically fretted “zither” – a “zither” being an instrument with strings stretched across a box from end to end, and having no neck as do guitars and violins. “Diatonic” means that the instrument plays only the eight tones of a scale such as: do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do.

Due to their simplicity in form and construction, dulcimers were popular for the music of the day in the mountain areas and were typically played by fretting the stings with a wooden dowel and strummed with a quill often made from a turkey feather. After the folk revival of the 1950’s and 60’s the dulcimer began to gain popularity. Today numerous dulcimer clubs have formed throughout the US, playing many forms of music including folk, gospel, and Americana. The Sun City Dulcimers is one such group and its members enjoy music and camaraderie on a weekly basis.

In the heart of the Lowcountry, just minutes from the sandy beaches of Hilton Head Island, Sun City may seem like an unlikely place to hear the twang of mountain music.

But these fine folk practice, play and tour.

The more people hear them play, the more they become interested in the sound of the dulcimer and the mountain music.

What do we learn from all of the above?

Music therapy provides a path for communication that can be helpful to those who find it difficult to express themselves in words. It provides positive sensory stimulation for the brain and enhances a person’s sense of well-being.  Music aids the cognitive process and perceptions. Music is an outlet where all of us can express our emotional feelings. It makes us feel great when we can recall songs of yesterday, rhymes and lyrics. It provides relief from stress and tension. Music takes us to a happier place. It can change an emotion in a moment from frown to smile! Try singing in the shower! Music heals!

“Music expresses that which cannot be said, and on which it is impossible to be silent”. Victor Hugo

 

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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

YOUNG AT HEART

IMG_2563I hope that you will be able to read many more blogs like this one! Our Club members not only have amazing brains but they are young at heart and love young people who have the “knack” to engage them, listen, share stories and entertain in that most human of ways.

It never ceases to amaze me the way that young people, (in the case of this story, teenagers), can engage and interact with our Club Members.  We were running both Connections and Compass classes on Tuesday and at some point merged them together. We will often do this when individuals express a desire to participate in a specific activity, or where we know from experience that there is benefit. Music and Art therapy are classic cases in point. Both can appropriately and significantly stimulate the brain, and both forms of therapy are fun! To watch our friends produce stellar artwork in our new ‘Blue Room’ is simply a revelation to be savored, and to hear them sing and dance with us is a joy impossible to explain with mere words.

So it was on this Tuesday when my good friend and volunteer, Bob, brought his visiting Grandchildren to Memory Matters. These are wonderful “kids” who have visited us before and know what to expect and, importantly, how to help make a difference. Rachael, Sarah and Luke were really welcomed by our Club members and were entertained by first Rachael, on the clarinet, and later by Sarah on the piano. Luke did not have his saxophone with him this time, but he has performed in the past. Rachael’s rendition of the “Music of the Night’ from the Phantom of the Opera was simply fabulous.

I have to add that the kids Grandpa Bob tried really hard to master the background music technology, but judging by his grandchildren’s smiles and laughter, this is a learning process! The above photo shows Rachael and some of our Club Members and volunteers enjoying the moment. Remember that you never know when a moment will become a memory for our Club members.

The next photo shows just how good Volunteer Bob is at shag dancing when he entertained us to his best impersonation of “Fred Astaire” while Cathy (a Club member) was his “Ginger Rogers”.

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Then Rachael took over again with a little sophisticated music.

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After which Bob returned to his role of compere and told a few of his stories and, as they say in Las Vegas, once heard by the Club Members, these stories stay in Memory Matters! You can see that Rachael enjoyed the stories, but I just hope that she didn’t tell them to Bob’s wife Carrie!

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Not content with music alone our young friends ran a competitive bingo session with Luke an admirable number caller. Suffice to say every Club member was a winner.

Do you have children or grandchildren seeking to engage in rewarding and fun community activity this summer? It’s always good to add to their resumes. We have opportunities this summer for volunteering and we are flexible on times. If you know of students who would like to volunteer at Memory Matters please call Cathee Stegall or Pat Cleary at 1 843 842 6688. Thank you for your consideration.

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Last Tuesday really was a fun and memorable day. We were honored to receive representatives from the Friends of Callawassie who came to view the outstanding therapeutic art program led by our Artist-in-Residence, Art Cornell,  and our own Cathee Stegall. The Friends of Callawassie Island are supporting our Therapeutic Arts program with a grant for art materials/supplies. They observed the artists in action and left with signed, original artwork. A huge THANK YOU to them!

Left to right in the photo below are Sheila Strand (Executive Director Memory Matters) Cathee Stegall (Memory Care Specialist) and from the Friends of Callawassie Mike Anderson and Nancy Sinick.

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Additionally our Club members enjoyed news, stories, information, music trivia and singing with “Bob and Mike in the morning”, followed by exercise to music and, singing and dancing with Kirby Sullivan and friends aka the Memory Matters Merry Minstrels!

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.