Dear AgeWiseLiving Friends,
As a Generational
Coach and because of the my mother's dementia, I'm
often asked by people who are concerned about their "intellectual
pauses" if there's anything they can do to remember
more, longer, and make their memories easier to access.
that I'm not a "brain specialist". Nothing written
here should imply a diagnosis or a way to prevent Alzheimers
or any of the dozen or so other types of dementia. However,
based on information I've learned through research and
personal observation and experience, I say Yes!
HOW WE MAKE
The brain is
an incredibly complex organ composed of billions & billions
of microscopic neurons, or brain cells. All the physical and
mental tasks we perform (walking, singing, tying your shoes,
and thousands of other tasks) are carried out when these cells
communicate with each other. This communication is accomplished
by a chemical manufactured inside the cell that jumps the tiny
gap between the cells, called the synapse. The chemical connection
(think of a microscopic hair) creates a memory.
made through our five senses. Every time we hear, see, taste,
smell, and touch, we're making a "memory connection".
In addition, the brain actually creates a new memory connection
for every sensory experience. If you say 1 word 10 times -
you've actually made 10 connections for that word. You
probably have millions of connections for your name.
memories are created through the sense of touch, which
has 2 parts. The first is tactile; the way something feels (a
caress, the texture of a blanket - or a hot stove). The
second is kinesthetic, sometimes called "muscle memory".
We make kinesthetic memories the same way you get to Carnegie
Hall . . . practice, practice, practice! It's how pianists
play without looking at the keys, how dancers remember routines,
and how we remember how to tie our shoes.
is our strongest sense for short term memory. In fact, 73% of
our short term memory is through what we see.
on the other hand, is the least reliable of the senses. We may
have great memories for music or the sound of someone's
voice but most of what we hear are abstract "facts"
such as names and numbers which lack an emotional context.
ever tasted something and asked yourself what's missing,
it's because of a taste memory. A few years ago,
some restaurants started featuring "comfort" food
(such as meat loaf and macaroni & cheese). It sounded like
a good idea but it didn't work because the food didn't
match the memory of the way "Mom used to make it".
is the strongest sense for short term memory, the sense of smell
is the strongest and most vivid for long-term memories. If you've
ever smelled something and had memories you hadn't thought
of in years come flooding back - thank your sense of smell.
And, each of
the senses makes its own connection even for the same experience!
When you see a rose and stop to smell it, you've doubled
your memory of it!
also believe that our brain processes and stores memories of
emotion differently from the way it stores memories of fact
and that we remember emotional memories far longer than fact
memories. The memories of Thanksgiving dinners, lullabies your
mother sang to you, your wedding, your child's first words,
the first time you successfully rode your bike without training
wheels, your old boyfriend's aftershave, your first kiss,
flowers on Valentines Day are all made stronger because of the
combination of the senses plus the emotional connection.
HOW WE RECALL
We make memories
through our senses and it's through those same senses that
we recall or "trigger" these memories.
regardless of the cause - blocks the connection, preventing
one cell from communicating with another, the way an accident
blocks traffic on a highway. The more connections you've
made for an experience, the more alternate routes you'll
have to recall or trigger that memory.
My mother has
very advanced dementia but she can still remember dozens of
old songs when the music triggers her memory. My great grandmother
died when I was five years old but to this day, whenever I smell
lilacs, I have vivid memories of her and the lilac sachets in
her lingerie drawer. If I can't remember a phone number,
I place my fingers on a phone key pad and let my fingers "remember"
for me. The smell of the sea air, the sound of the wind, the
taste of your mother's meatloaf, the sight of a sunrise,
the feel of a baby's skin are all triggers we created through
our emotional and sensory experiences.
every time we think, write, and/or talk about an experience,
we make even more memories - and more triggers by which
to recall them.
When doing routine
tasks, challenge yourself to be aware of all of your senses
like the taste, feel, smell, and sound of brushing your teeth.
add additional senses to your experiences. For example, revel
in the taste, smell, look, and feel of eating something delicious
and when you turn on some music, get up and boogie!
Make a point
to explore new things and/or do things you haven't done
in years. Go for a walk and notice the feel of the ground under
you feet, the warmth of the sun, the cold winter air, the color
of the sky, and the sound of the birds, or pull out that musical
instrument you haven't touched in years and give it a go!
your family and friends. Not only will it create fuller memories
for you, it will give them wonderful memories, too.
Enjoy the assignment!
Until next time,
For much more
information about preserving memories, determining if your forgetfulness
is simply forgetfulness or the "real thing", and ways
to help someone with dementia, please click Is
It Simple Forgetfulness or the Real Thing© for a list
of upcoming dates and locations. Seating is limited so please
reserve your space now.
An article I
wrote was published in the CAPSULE, the Children of Aging Parents
(CAPs) newsletter. Here's an excerpt. To read the complete article,
just click on the link below.
mother expects me to take care of her, even though I have a
husband, children, and a job. But she's SO grateful when
my brother calls once a month!"
I ask my parents about their health they freak out and shut
I did was mentioned to my father that I'd like to help
him with the finances and suddenly the conversation took a dark
turn. Now he won't even speak to me!"
care of the house is overwhelming my mother but she won't
even talk about getting help or moving."
Sound familiar? Frustrating? If so, you're not alone. Many
adult children want to help their parents or other aging loved
ones but when they try to have a conversation, even though they're
using the same words, for some reason the words don't seem
to have the same meaning.
In fact, one
client put it perfectly when he said: "You know that book
Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus? Well, men may
be from Mars and women may be from Venus but sometimes I think
my parents are from an alternate universe!"
not from an alternate universe, of course. They're "Vicky-D's"
and they're from an opposite generation!
For the complete
For lots more
information about the "Vicky-D's" and their Baby
Boomer children as well as useful tips on how to bridge the
generation gap, please click Bridging
the Generations© for a list of upcoming dates and locations.
While you're there please check out other AgeWiseLiving
if you're frustrated and worn out by eldercare issues that
never seem to get settled, call today to schedule a complementary
get-acquainted conversation to see how Generational Coaching®
can help you resolve your eldercare issues once and for all!
And since all
is by phone, the only question is how quickly you want or need
to get your issues settled -
no matter what time zone you're in.