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Stop #2 on the #BeingBrainHealthy #VirtualBookTour: Conversations in Care

20 Aug

You are more likely to know someone walking through the fog of brain injury than you are to know someone with cancer.

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Really, you are.  Think about this:

  • 1.8 million people each year are diagnosed in the Emergency Room each and every year with brain injury from some kind of blow to the head
  • 700,000 people have strokes that have some thinking deficits as part of the package, each and every year

Add to that the fact that no one really keep stats on those brain injuries related to chemo-therapy, anesthesia, medications, and neurological diseases that pop up each and every year. Now consider unknown number of combat-related brain injuries and all those brain injuries that are still significant but not diagnosed in the ER (like mine).

Trust me. You know someone who has had a brain injury.

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In today’s featured broadcast on the Being Brain Healthy Virtual Book Tour I speak with an amazing woman, Tami Neuman from the Care Radio Network and host of Conversations in Care. Tami has  years of experience caring for dementia patients and she really gets it that “reality” (yes those are air quotes) is not the same for everyone and that support for those with brain challenges is best given with a healthy dose of compassion and joy.

In addition to everyday brain health and turning up the noise on life, Tami and I spoke about promoting dignity, self-respect, and understanding for those we are supporting by treating each as intelligent, vibrant adults. We talked about how I realized one day that we all (yes all of us) speak to people who are struggling to think or understand as if they were children – we speak slowly and clearly using simple, tiny words – and that is just not OK.

Listen in our conversation HERE.  Warning: Listening to Conversations in Care may be habit forming!

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What have you noticed about how people change when they care for others?

Here’s to remembering to put dignity, self-respect, and quality of life at the core of caring for others.

The Doorway Syndrome & Why Yesterday’s Puzzles Were So Freaking Difficult!

21 Oct

Yesterday afternoon as I walked through the hallway of the Queen Mary  with my dear ghost hunting partner and friend,  yesterday’s puzzles and why they were so difficult came up.

Yes, they were tough puzzles and not only for the reasons mentioned in the post (I gave some details about how abstract art is distracting for some). The difficulty factor in these particular puzzles, laid out in that particular way, went way up because you could not see both images on the same screen at the same time – you had to scroll up and down. That, my friends, tests your working memory – a tiny space that holds a limited amount of information for a short period of time.

I notice my working memory failures, quite frequently, as I stand in the middle of the room, shaking my head, trying to remember why the heck I am here and what am I supposed to remember to do….

The following is from a piece I wrote earlier this year originally posted on this site and the ideas (0r loss of them as I walked through so many doorways) apply just as much today as they did when I started writing about them!

From our puzzles: A Dooorway to Nowhere in Fernandina Beach, FL

Did you walk into a room today and completely forget why you were there?   I did…all day long…. It has just been one of those days.

The good news is that this is “normal” and explainable: going from one room to the next can make you forget!   Seriously, researchers at Notre Dame studied this and determined that the physical act of walking through a doorway can cause you to forget!

You create an “event boundary” – a point where memory is updated to bring in new information. When you receive new information, “old” information is given a new position in the order of importance based on how it holds up to the new data.   Sounds complicated but here is what is really happening:     when you walk through a door you add new items for your limited, short term memory to deal with. Most of the “old” items are either compartmentalized (put in a category and filed away) or just pushed aside to make room for something more immediate and important. Poof…just like that, your thought is gone!

So, maybe we are not crazy, but what can we do?   Some say retrace your steps. Unless you were on a mission to find something that you needed to complete a task in the first room (like a pen to write a check), this usually doesn’t work. Often, memories that are put in a category and filed away don’t keep their context so back tracking is not always successful. In addition, since it is the physical act of going from one room to the next that makes you forget, rinsing and repeating only adds more information to the process and makes it less likely you will remember your original purpose.

Dark doorwayOne good strategy to use to keep from losing a specific thought is to make sure the information stays at the front of the working memory line. Make it important enough to bump everything else out of the way. Give that thought an emotional value or a sense of urgency. Make it tough to replace it or file it away without associating it with something urgent.  That can be exhausting though, so make sure you only choose those things you really need to remember.

You can also remember things in chunks – associate several thoughts and make it one. That way that group only takes up one spot in line and, even if the group is filed away, you have several points of reference to use to pull it out.

Some days though, just know that the Doorway Syndrome is real and will happen no matter what!  I file this away in the “stuff happens” category.  That way when I stand up and leave the room, I won’t beat myself up for not remembering why I came here to begin with!

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