Only Elephants Never Forget!

There is no shame in forgetting!

Today, our new 2018 Connections Class openly debated forgetfulness and concluded, both passionately and, at times emotionally, that it is really OK to forget.

As I enter my 70th year I am prepared to admit that I cannot remember everything that I used to recall as a young man, at times almost instantaneously, and with accuracy. My hippocampus must have shrunk a little, but that is the process of normal aging as we enter this new territory! The memory center in our brain may be small but my goodness it is so powerful, which is just one reason why Cathee Stegall (Memory Matters Senior Program Director and Memory Care Specialist) has spent years seeking the best teaching solutions to enable us all to enjoy brain health longevity.

When I was 25 years old I would write a “to do” list on a piece of paper and every morning in my business career I would read it. Every evening I would read it again. When I was 40 years old and running a sizable business I kept a mighty long list, because even then it was possible to forget. We are God’s human beings and we are not perfect.

Now I have technology – Apple iPhone “reminders” to help me and Google Calendar, but I still keep a written ‘to do’ list and, if all else fails, I have my lovely wife Barbara to remind me! As a fall back – I have two sons, their wives and three Grandchildren! Oh yes! Did I mention my overseas sister-in-laws last week?! One English, another Welsh and then, there is the Italian!😉

Cathee has spent considerable time over the past several months updating and rewriting the course work for our Connections class. Just to be clear, Connections is suitable for people with mild memory loss, or an early diagnosis of a dementia. It is a brain stretching class and differs significantly from our Compass program, a social day program for people with mild to moderate degrees of dementia.

Most of the people now attending this 3 hour Connections class are independent people and do not need to rely on someone to bring them to Memory Matters. For the most part they themselves have chosen to attend Connections because they want to learn and practice the memory loss interventions that we promote and teach.

Today was such a great Brain day!

Cathee’s mantra is Show Up! Trust Me!

We first developed a list of around 50 synonyms for the word “happiness” and debated them. The class then explained why some of their words were lateral in context, ranging from joyful to elated or ecstatic, and relaxed to song. This was but the prelude for a much deeper conversation.

Cathee asked everyone to write down their thoughts and responses to these eight statements.


  1. Increase involvement in mentally stimulating activities.
  2. Engage in better nutritional habits.
  3. Increase physical activity.
  4. Socialize more with optimistic people.
  5. Learn how to decrease stress in a variety of ways.
  6. Use memory enhancement techniques.
  7. Use humor often in everyday life.
  8. Celebrate all you can do rather than focusing on what you can no longer do.

The written responses were openly and at times emotionally debated but in a most supportive way. The class participants were there for each other. The responses to statement 4 in particular are profound. At Memory Matters we call this a “mission moment”. It can be quite moving for the staff and volunteers.

In the same order as the eight statements above here is a précis of both written and spoken words: (A quick thank you to my good friends and volunteers Judy and Bob for helping me pull together the salient points)

  1. Puzzles, bookclub, bridge, music, go to Memory Matters.
  2. No sugar, no snacking, healthy habits, good food often based on the Mediterranean lifestyle ingredients and cooking. Make sure your vitamin B12 level is adequate.
  3. Exercise, walk, gym, get oxygen to the brain.
  4. Hang with the winners! Don’t be around people who “Nega-talk”.
    1/2 full is better than 1/2 empty. Don’t let people say: “I told you that before”! Telling  people they do not remember leads to anger, frustration, a feeling  of being attacked and its degrading and leads to a feeling of shame. It is flat out wrong. There is nothing wrong about forgetting. We have a right to forget. Forgetting is a great opportunity to learn again or learn something new! Walk over the negative.  Stop saying “don’t you remember “? Instead accept your memory loss and forgive.
  5. Amen! Exercise, yoga, be positive! Hang with the winners again.
  6. Lists, and learn how to forget the forgets! Every problem is an opportunity.
  7. Laugh, have fun and live in the “now” moment.
  8. Be an optimist. Power of positive thinking. Love what you remember and smile.

During the interaction between Cathee, class members and volunteers one gentleman said this:

When my short term memory began to deteriorate I noticed that my wife would ask me about a task or phone call that I was supposed to make and I would draw a blank and my wife would say “ But I told you that”. I did not like the way I felt when my wife would say “I told you”, so we made an agreement to drop that phrase “ I Told You That” from our conversation and instead silently agree to forgive the forgetting that we each did.

No, there is no shame in forgetting. It’s normal and to be cherished along with other aspects of our lives on earth. As one class member remarked, (with passion), “What you forget is an opportunity to learn”!


I realize that I have just written an upbeat chronicle and my passion for Memory Matters is considerable. Some of the people in the class today have had an early diagnosis of a dementia, but they are brave, and have decided to seek our help. That means they “show up and trust Cathee”.  So for perfect clarification and transparency let me add that we know that Alzheimer’s is the disease still with no cure, but until there is a cure – there is Memory Matters. A great 20 year old not-for-profit organization with experienced, caring and professional staff supported by over 100 volunteers.

If you found this blog interesting and you believe we might be able to help you or a loved one, or a friend, then please do not be afraid, call us at 1 843 842 6688. All calls and free memory screening are treated confidentially. 





Art Therapy. A regular feature of our programs.


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

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

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

In the meantime here is some interesting research detail.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

Love Complete by Art Cornell

On days such as this,

sky-piercing blue,

While wisps float;

Love is the whole and

more than all, much more.


Shared moments—

Surf crashing, rays heating,

Sand clinging—

Futures to dream, capsules of

Time remembered,

Looking at the music of

our lives,

And love is the whole

and more than all,

much more.


Give me your hand once

More before this day’s

night begins.

Your gentle eyes bright, a

touch soft, your voice

my soul vibrates,

And love is the whole

and more than all,

much more.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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




Bill and Melinda Gates


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

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

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

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

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



Now read extracts from Bill Gates recent  interviews and announcements:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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! 


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.


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”.


Then Rachael took over again with a little sophisticated music.


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!


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.


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.


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


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:

DSC_3301 (1)

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.



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. 


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.


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:


Memory Matters Optimizes Brain Wellness.


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. 


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.



Let me get right to the heart of the matter. We need more volunteers please!

For all those fine people who have patiently and generously read my blogs over the past year and clicked the “like or love” button on Facebook, or even shared a post with friends, I am now appealing for your help please! 

Let me explain.

Memory Matters has a loyal group of volunteers who give of their time and talents to help those less fortunate than themselves. Frankly speaking I am referring to the caregivers whose loved ones suffer from a dementia or Parkinson’s disease or both. Everything the volunteers achieve in the daycare programs, (our Connections and Compass Clubs), is directed towards giving respite to the caregivers and allowing them time and space to take care of themselves. Being a care giver (sometimes I call them care partners) to someone suffering from say, Alzheimers is a really tough challenge in life. I have some personal experience, having cared for my Mother in England last year. She suffered terrible physical problems added to which her dementia had kicked in too.

Alzheimer’s is still the disease without a cure, and until there is one, Memory Matters will continue to offer our local Low Country community a memory care resource that is second to none. Now in our 20th year, we continue to develop new programs and refine existing  programs both for the caregivers – through counseling and support groups – as well their loved ones in Connections or Compass.


Through our Connections Club program we are endeavoring to extend the time those loved ones can spend at home with their families by challenging their brains and giving that 3lbs of “squidgy” muscle some serious exercise! The people who attend Connections are often recently diagnosed with Alzheimers or another dementia, or are simply suffering from a mild cognitive impairment. If we can bring them to us as early as possible we know we can extend their quality years. We use socialization, challenging but fun games, music and art therapy, as well as brain stretching puzzles and various “mind games” to stimulate the brain. We emphasize nutritious healthy eating (the Mediterranean diet I wrote about last week), and add exercise to the mix. Often this is a professionally led yoga routine.

The disease with no cure is not going away and the baby boomer generation is in its  “head-lights”. So having recently completed a remodeling of our building to create more usable space we are expanding  our offerings. More programs and more people per week.



The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.

We need you to volunteer please!

I can tell you from personal experience that you might be apprehensive on the first day, but that soon disappears when you realize just how rewarding and fun (!) being a Memory Matters volunteer can be. One of our volunteers- Lindy -has been with us for eight years and comes in four days a week. His wife once attended Memory Matters before she passed away, and as a caregiver himself he found the respite time something to treasure. Similarly, my close personal friend Bob who leads the “Bob and Mike in the morning” news hour on Tuesday’s has been a volunteer for five years. He tells the same story as Lindy after a family member attended our programs. This Navy Pilot veteran loves giving back and the Club members love him too. The Compass Club members are his friends.

In celebration of National Volunteer Month:

Spring into Spring and please join us at our Volunteer Fair, on Tuesday March 28th.

There is no commitment. But please come and check us out.

OPEN HOUSE 3:30 – 5 pm
Venue: Program Headquarters, 117 Wm Hilton Parkway, Hilton Head Island.

In summary:
Memory Matters improves the quality of life for families and persons living with memory loss. We are volunteer-driven and need loving hands and hearts to help with our fun and active social-model day programs; Connections and Compass. You will have a blast while making friends and, very importantly, while making a difference! We also need office and kitchen volunteer support.
We will match your schedule and needs.

For more information, contact
Jan Smith at 843-842-6688, Ext. 1014


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.