Five easy memory tricks

With two of our four parents succumbing to complications due to Alzheimer’s, memory maintenance is of interest to my wife and me. Readers’ Digest ran an article by Andrea Au Levitt called “5 Easy Memory Tricks.” Her intro paragraph follows:

“You know that eating healthy, staying active, and solving a few brain games can help keep you sharp. But these lesser known habits work wonders, too.”

1. Sit tall – when slouching it follows or promotes defeated, anxious and depressive thoughts, which hinder memory.

2. Exercise – once – gains in memory after one exercise are similar to gains after regular exercise (note still do the regular stuff).

3. Limit TV – including online versions of TV, too much screen time can harm cognitive development and maintenance.

4. Doodle – people can remember things better if they doodle or draw a picture of what they are thinking of. Writing the words of the thing is not as memorable as drawing a picture.

5. Walk backward – real, imagined or watched walking backward or even forward, can help remember something. So, in keeping with #2 above, take a walk (and walk backwards on occasion).

Let me take one of the above and break it down more. One of the examples from Malcom Gladwell’s book, “Talking to strangers,” notes that torture is a horrible way to gain information. Why? Under trauma, people remember less than they would normally. The comment about sitting tall in #1 above, notes if we slouch we increase anxiety or depressive thoughts, a mild form of trauma.

Outside of the walking backward, I do the above things. The sitting tall actually helps this tall person with his back. As for doodling, for some reason when I work the various puzzles in the newspaper, I blacken in the circular letters (O’s, D’s, P’s etc.) in the title of the advice section (sorry Dear Abby). Maybe it helps me with the puzzles (or advice).

As I leave you, think of Barbra Streisand walking backward singing “Memories light the corners of my mind, Misty water-colored memories of the way we were.”

A tribute to my mother – may she rest in peace

My mother passed away early on Christmas morning. She was as fine a Christian as we ever knew, so passing on Jesus’ birthday seems fitting for her. She was an elementary school teacher and taught Bible Study Fellowship for many years. She was predeceased by her husband to whom she was married for 54 years after meeting at college. She left behind three children, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

My mom loved her husband who passed in 2006. Their meeting at college was eventful, as our father actually fell into her lap. The story goes he was playing basketball for the college team and she arrived late. As she quickly sat and waited for the action to clear on one side of the court so she could walk around, he chased a loose ball and landed in her lap. She told me of another story where she jokingly pushed him into a pond, when the Dean saw her talking with a male student on the female side of the dorm buildings, as she did not want to be accused of fraternizing.

Mom loved her children and grandchildren. She was an avid reader and shared that love with each of them. When not preparing lesson plans for her students or fellow bible study worshipers, she was avid about her crossword puzzles, sometimes completing three a day. She was involved with the church making arrangements when outreach to people was needed for sickness, funerals, and celebrations.

And, she was devoted to her mother and siblings before they passed before her. She often travelled to visit them during their times of need. She simply was a doer who helped others. As her memory faded, her ability to help others faded as well, although she was an active participant in events at the assisted living facility.

There are two saving graces to her passing. We were told she did not suffer much and went quickly. One of the caregivers said Mom asked her to pray for her earlier that day, when helping her to bed. Also, with Alzheimer’s, my mother still remained the sweet person we knew, so she had not gotten to the point where the paranoia and unawareness causes routine belligerent behavior. She knew we were on her team, even though she was not certain which teammate we were. I am a better person because of my mother. I will miss her. We all will.

I

 

My mother the planner

Last August, my brother, sister and I made the difficult, but correct decision to migrate our mother into an assisted living facility. She was in a Rehab facility after getting a urinary tract infection, becoming dehydrated then falling, not an unusual triumvirate for elderly women. We were  also awaiting test results from a neurologist on Alzheimer’s, a test she had taken a month before.

The advice from several nurses was to move Mom while she could cope with the change. They noted often families wait too long and the parent becomes paranoid . Later, it was confirmed she has a progressive memory disorder, most likely Alzheimer’s. She is doing well, eating better, taking her medicines and staying busy. But, she is definitely in the right place as her memory continues to betray her.

You see, Mom was a teacher. She double majored in Education and Home Economics, so she was quite the planner. She later taught bible study fellowship up
until eighteen months before her hospital stay. And, when the church needed someone to organize meals for funerals or something, they looked to my mother. She had to be very organized to accomplish her duties, work, family and volunteer.

To make ends meet, she would plan her errands and meals. After leaving teaching to raise us (she would later return), she helped my father make ends meet. Since he was paid every two weeks, Mom would buy groceries based on a preset menu following her Home Economics discipline.

Every two weeks, we would eat fried chicken, pork chops, spaghetti, meat loaf, pot roast, etc. and then do it again the next two weeks. She would allow some variation intermixing fried shrimp or salmon  croquettes, and we usually had a treat of take out pizza. Mind you, this was before Pizza Hut, so we had to go get it.

I speak with Mom a few times a week and try to visit once a month from three states away. To see her now, is disheartening, but she is always my mother. She thinks she is in a college dorm room, which is sweet. At times, she talks about her pictures as if they are real. She has been able to mask her memory loss as she is very social, but it is harder now. I visit and call as I don’t want her to forget me. She knows I am on her team, but she has introduced me as her son, grandson, brother and husband.

Alzheimer’s is a hateful illness. If you have a loved one with any memory disorder get prepared for a demise in memory that won’t come back. And, have good conversations before then about how to handle the patient’s affairs.