Week 3: Fall 2015
Social Interaction as a Boost to Memories
This week’s theme is how to boost our memories by giving ourselves every chance we can. What can that mean?
Consider how our world has changed. More people used to live close to their extended families. Did you have a grandparent at home with you? How about aunts and uncles in the same town? Perhaps your answer is “yes, we did and still do”. Some families are able to relocate to be nearer to each other, while for others their ‘family’ are their friends and community connections.
Our country is large, young people travel and explore. Families have always moved for jobs or new opportunities, that’s not new. Yet now we live in a society of obvious mobility physically, and yet also boundary-less, enabled by technological advances for communication and connection to the ‘larger world’ and with each other no matter where we live.
Seniors may not have as many opportunities to play a role in their families such as the opportunity to bake cookies or share their gardens with their children and grandchildren directly, yet we have other opportunities if we take the time to look around and consider options and help one another take advantage of them.
With new technology, families and friends stay in touch via mobile phones, tablets and iPads and then there’s Skype and Facebook to name a few. These things are actually bridging a gap for many folks who’ve been able to adapt to this world of communication as a way of supporting each other. Yet, barriers of all kinds may not help the ones unable to access or make use of connecting in this way.
In our area with our high population (33%) of seniors, we are fortunate to have many resources for learning, clubs to participate in, support groups for specific needs and a community that is welcoming. Our public library, recreational complex, seniors groups: New Horizons for Seniors and BC Seniors Association, Therapeutic Activation Program for Seniors, Community Halls, church communities, and arts and culture groups are just some of the ways that seniors can connect and build relationships.
We easily recognize that physiological changes happen as we age; yet do we likewise recognize the effects of emotional and social changes especially if feeling disconnected or isolated. Life deals us all different challenges, and when one is feeling out of touch for whatever reason, our memory as well as our wellbeing can be affected.
So, along with our physical needs for nourishment, being in contact with loved ones, friends or in community feeds and fuels our wellbeing. Our memory is affected by how we feel about ourselves and the world. So ‘giving ourselves a chance to boost our memory” might mean considering and acting on how you can participate, reach out, and communicate in some new ways. If you are a caregiver or family member of someone with memory changes, consider these things and how you can help your loved ones build connections. Resources: www.link2creston, our local papers, and the library in addition to those mentioned above, are ways to find out about opportunities and support in our back yard.
“To be seventy years young is sometimes far more cheerful than being forty years old.” Sir Wendell Holmes,
Week 2: Fall 2015
How do you think about memory? What are your beliefs about memory lapses, aging? Do you feel powerless towards your memory? Many of us hold unrealistic expectations about memory what it is and how it works. We seek perfection from it. Our identity is built on our memories: from our favorite foods, our bank account numbers, to remembering what it is like to pet a horse, or be in love. Memory is all encompassing, it represents us in the world, encoded through our senses at the time.
Yet under the stress of memory lapses and fears of what it might mean, we tend to overlook the multi dimensions of memory. Take a trip down your lane of pleasant events, calling up memories of smells and sounds, touch and images. Does that experience make forgetting someone’s name seem less important? What would happen if you accepted your memory for all that it is? Next time you beat yourself up for forgetting someone’s name, smile to yourself and know that your memory is full of wonderful memories that have meant so much to you. Practicing your ability to remember special times in your life is a way to build a positive relationship to your way of thinking about yourself. This attitude is good for the memory as well, as adaptive beliefs open up the channels for better reception of information and the ability to recall information at a later date.
There are many things that affect our ability to remember and countless strategies to maintain or improve it. Two things tend to motivate people: fear and inspiration. Fear can get you going, but it doesn’t make you feel good and is not sustainable. Inspiration, on the other hand, motivates you to move forward, even when obstacles are placed in your way.
You may have already discovered ways to sidestep the anxiety of memory lapses with creative responses. For example: many of us have figured out that being honest with the person you are talking with that you can’t recall their name usually leads to “I know what you mean, that happens to me too”, with accompanying laughter.
Another tip: if you can’t remember what you were about to do, stop, go back a few steps, or back to where you first started and wait a few seconds and darn if it more often than not works. Accompanying this kind of approach is an inherent belief required that there is nothing wrong, that you just have to give your brain a chance to remember. Thanking your (brain, memory...) or yourself when you do remember seems to be a good reinforcement for this kind of approach.
Another idea is to: distract to remember, as we cannot feel two conflicting emotions at the same time. If you are feeling frustrated, caught in negative memories or responses, think of something that makes you laugh as humor goes a long way in enhancing memory function. By distracting your stress response you can gently refocus your attention onto what you were attempting to recall. Another approach is to think of a neutral memory (like the colour of your bedroom walls) allowing a defusing of the stressful emotion, defusing, backing out of that part of the brain associated to the anxiety. Recite the alphabet, count to twenty... what tricks work for you to return with a fresh outlook to what you were trying to remember?
Content compiled and excerpted from ‘The Memory Workbook’ by Douglas J. Mason, Psy.D and Michael L. Kohn, Psy.D. Published by New Harbinger Publications Inc. Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books.
Week 1: Fall 2015
This is the first of 8 articles being sponsored through TAPS as part of a Moving Along Together Program (for people experiencing memory changes and their caregivers) This is funded by a Columbia Basin Trust Social Grant. In this second series we’ll be sharing these ideas to stimulate discussion and inspiration through exploring our understanding of memory, what affects it and some current information on ways to improve or maintain it. See our contact information above for further information about the program.
Most people talk about memory as if it were a thing they have, like bad eyes or a good head of hair. But your memory doesn't exist in the way a part of your body exists -- it's not a "thing" you can touch. It's a concept that refers to the process of remembering.
Your baby's first cry...the taste of your grandmother's molasses cookies...the scent of an ocean breeze. These are memories that make up the ongoing experience of your life -- they provide you with a sense of self. They're what make you feel comfortable with familiar people and surroundings, tie your past with your present, and provide a framework for the future. In a profound way, it is our collective set of memories -- our "memory" as a whole -- that makes us who we are.
In the past, many experts were fond of describing memory as a sort of tiny filing cabinet full of individual memory folders in which information is stored away. Others likened memory to a neural supercomputer wedged under the human scalp. But today, experts believe that memory is far more complex and elusive than that -- and that it is located not in one particular place in the brain but is instead a brain-wide process.
So, what is memory? Memory is a mental process of storing and retrieving information. Information goes in transported by multiple systems in our body. Then the information is stored away. How well your memory works depends on how well you saw, heard, and understood the experience and then how the memory was stored and then how easy it is to retrieve it.
What seems to be a single memory is actually a complex construction. If you think of an object -- say, a pen -- your brain retrieves the object's name, its shape, its function, the sound when it scratches across the page. Each part of the memory of what a "pen" is comes from a different region of the brain. The entire image of "pen" is actively reconstructed through a web of neurons by the brain from many different areas. Neurologists are only beginning to understand how the parts are reassembled into a coherent whole.
Information flows from the outside world through our senses: our eyes ears touch smell and taste. Only the things that catch our attention goes into our short term memory. For example you won’t remember the annoying cooler sound or the lights are on but you may remember that I have a unique hat on my head. We keep short term memory for about 30 seconds, and our short term only holds about 7 things. Through some unknown way some memories that are important like hot things burn, or the names of our children get put into our long term memory where they can last possibly forever.
Ideas to consider:
Week 4: Spring 2015
Visiting Your Doctor
It is a good idea to prepare yourself when you plan to see your doctor.
Prioritize - what is your most pressing health issue? During a regular visit you might only have the chance to discuss one or two things with your doctor. If you feel that you need more time with your doctor, ask the receptionist for a longer appointment when booking your visit.
Write your concerns down - write your most concerning health problem(s) down and take the list to your doctor. That way you can refer to your list, when you feel you can't remember what you came for.
Take a friend/ caregiver along - ask someone from your support circle to accompany you. They might be helpful in providing information and they can be helpful to recall what was said during your visit.
Speak Up - often doctors are in a hurry. When you feel overwhelmed don't be afraid to ask the doctor to slow down, so you can grasp what they are telling you.
Prepare - it might be a good idea to keep a diary of your symptoms and concerns and bring that along to your doctor's visit.
Inform yourself - you can find information by browsing the internet and looking for books in your library and/ or bookstore.
During our session, one of the care givers pointed out the importance of Advance Care Planning. He pointed out the importance of getting the right documents in place as early as possible, so that the affected person will get health care and personal care according to their own wishes. Also, to appoint someone you trust to handle financial and legal affairs. There are various documents out there (Power of Attorney, Enduring Power of Attorney, Representation Agreement, Health Care Agreement, ...) and it is important to understand the difference between them, as this might have severe implications on the affected person and their caregivers and families. As a citizen of British Columbia you should make sure that your documents are for BC and registered/legalized in BC.
There are some good resources available online and in print as it would be too much for this web-page to go into detail:
- The Nidus Personal Planning Resource Centre is a non-profit, charitable organization. Nidus provides information to British
Columbians about personal planning, specializing in Representation Agreements. http://www.nidus.ca
- Nidus provides information on explaining the difference between Power of Attorney and Enduring Power of Attorney:
- Also, general information on Personal Planning: http://www.nidus.ca/?page_id=3968
- The BC Ministery of Health has published a booklet called “My Voice -Expressing My Wishes For Future Health Care Treatment”. It
is a guide and a work book that takes you through the steps to create an Advance Care Plan, outlining your wishes about care
decisions in the event you are unable to do so. The link for the booklet in PDF format is:
- The link to the BC Government web page with general information about advance care planning and information on how to order a printed copy of My Voice is here: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/topic.page?id=E7A581A9BC0A467E916CFC5AD2D3B1E8
- The Kootenay Council of Seniors Associations (KCOSA) provides workshops informing about Advance Care Planning in the
Kootenay region. To find out if they are having a workshop coming up near you: https://kcosa.wordpress.com/about/
Or contact: Craig & Judy Gray; Phone: 250-352-6635; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
These are just a few links which we think might be helpful. You can find much more information if you search the web for: Power of Attorney, Enduring Power of Attorney, Representation Agreement, Health Care Agreement, etc
Week 2: Spring 2015
We pointed out the importance of nonverbal communication by exploring nonverbal cues we all use or know how to interpret (e.g. thumbs up, smile, frown,…) For a lot of people affected with memory changes your body language/ facial expression will mean more than the words you tell them.
As an affected person (AP), write down things you might not remember, so that you can communicate them later. Ask again if you don’t understand what was communicated to you. Ask the other person to slow down and/ or use shorter and simpler questions.
As caregiver (CG) use simple notes, posted in strategic spots, as reminder for the AP (eg a note saying “Keys?” posted at the apartment or house door). Try asking “closed questions” - questions that can be answered with Yes or No.
Week 1: Spring 2015
Getting To Know Each Other - Getting To Know Yourself
We started our program with introducing each other and writing name tags.
We encouraged clients to adapt relaxation techniques for themselves, like taking three deep breaths whenever they feel stressed or overwhelmed.
Another practice suggested is, to look for a "safe spot" to retreat to when going places. It's important to do that while clients are still in the mind-set to do so. Places/ functions like a family gathering can easily become overwhelming. Creating a "signal" between the caregiver and the person with memory changes is another technique to make sure the person with memory changes feels save and can trust that the caregiver / partner will support them by "removing" them from an uncomfortable situation.
As the affected person (AP), try to be open about your memory challenges and don’t hide them. If you can’t remember, let the other person know.
As a care giver (CG) encourage the person to share their thoughts and feelings. Give them the time and room to do so. Reassure them that “it is okay” the way they are, that you still love them. Be honest and patient with them. If you are in a hurry tell them you will get back later to them, when you have more time and keep your promises.