‘We do not remember days; we remember moments.’ -Cesare Pavese

Each week, I spend 6-10 hours visiting on the dementia unit of a skilled nursing facility. It is a remarkable, joyful place, utilizing music therapy throughout each day. In addition, Sundays they provide concerts for residents and their families. About 7 years ago, just for fun I began playing a game there drawing upon familiar 40’s Standards and well-known songs from movies and Broadway. I’d sing a line like,’Zippity Doo-Dah, zippity ay, ˘My, oh, my what a wonderful ______.’ Or ‘Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens; Bright copper kettles and warm woolen _______.’ Alzheimer's and dementia patients who might not speak another word all day would suddenly fill in the blank. Best of all, their eyes would often light with recognition, smiling with delight or even giggling at the thrill of ‘getting it right.’ So much expressive language eludes them now, and some don’t recognize their children. But the melody, aided by rhyme scheme, plus positive associations with the songs, flips a switch in the brain and suddenly they are interacting, laughing, and the catalyst is a Musical Memory. We play this game often and they never tire of it. Now after practice, some who filled-in one word rhymes are now anticipating and jumping in mid-phrase with more of the lyrics. What lovelier way to spend life on a dementia unit than making music, experiencing success, connecting with others and. . .boosting endorphins with laughter and sheer joy? If you care for someone with cognitive impairment, I encourage you try this, perhaps incorporating rhythm instruments for those less able to speak.

We come home from the market without the eggs we went there for. Yet most of us recall every word to The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Twinkle-Twinkle, and whenever we vaguely hear the American Idol theme in the distance from the kitchen, we drop the dish towel and head for the TV. Music, and associated lyrics, stick. Couples associate the first blush of their love with ‘Our Song,’ and for the rest of their lives just the first few notes will elicit a deeply emotional, even visceral response.

'You don’t remember me, but I remember you.' -Little Anthony & The Imperials

From our earliest days we use these to memorize the ABCs, the order of the planets, the number of days in a month, and to connect with a tennis ball. Athletes employ what we now refer to as Muscle Memory in virtually all sports, and school kids use songs to memorize the American presidents in sequence, as well and the alphabetical ‘Fifty Nifty United States.’ (I sure wish someone had offered me mnemonic or melodic strategies when I was memorizing the periodic table, or struggling through statistics.) There is strong evidence that keeping the body/mind/spirit active, especially in senior years, (e.g. doing puzzles or hobbies, playing cards, making music, walking, reading, swimming or taking courses, making friends,) may enhance memory, along with wellness. Avoiding non-essential stress wherever possible, and regularly releasing the inevitable stress can, in fact, help us process and retain information we wish to access more readily. [ Now if we can just Remember to do that. . . ]

Pop Quiz:
Advertisers know about the power of music on memory.
Can you name the products or shows for the following old-time jingles?
1. ____ ____, a little dab’ll do ya.
2. If you want shoes with lots of pep, get ____, kids, ____
3. Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.
4. Or a rival campaign: Have it your way, have it your way, have it your way at___ ___.
5. Who can turn the world on with a smile?
6. __ ___ __ ___ is the heavenly coffee.
7. Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed.
8. I love_____. _____is for me. Mommy puts it in my milk for extra energy.
9. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8: Schlemiel, schlimazel, hasenpfeffer, incorporated
And one of the cleverest campaigns ever:
10. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ , ________ makes the very best. . . Chawwwcolate.

‘ I Keep Forgetting I’m Not in Love Anymore -Michael McDonald

Everywhere I go, I hear people talking about the stress of how forgetful they are becoming, and that if they don’t write a task down, it might not get done. Now, I’m a pretty organized person. Not "All-My-Books-Alphabetized" organized, but I feel comforted by organizational systems that reassure me that important things won’t slip through the cracks. Generally that works for me. Well, a couple of years ago, I had way too many To-Do’s, and accidentally locked my dear, beloved, cleaning lady out. First, I was just horrified to have stood her up, wasted her time, and I also could not ignore this flashing neon signal that I was juggling too many balls that week. I apologized sincerely and of course paid her for her time, but I couldn’t shake feeling scatter-brained. . . and embarrassed. So I took a little informal survey of friends I know to also be pretty reliable, and what I learned made me feel a whole lot better. I hope it will do the same for you: One highly-responsible friend with what I can only call a true Gift for remembering, (and still in her 30’s ) shared that she once agreed to pick up her neighbor’s child . . .then forgot. Now that’s bad. And if it could happen to her, it can happen to anyone. [F.Y.I. The child was perfectly safe, calm, and the story had a happy ending, lest you think I would ever make light of how critical reliable child-care is.] Another very conscientious friend shared that she has a door that can only be unlocked from the outside. One day she went out, and locked someone IN her house. These are great reminders to those of us who occasionally forget something. Everyone does, and once again I re-learn this lesson: We’re all just people, juggling the best we can, and sometimes we may lose a word, or our train of thought, our balance, or perspective. We may also lose our sense of humor, patience, or temper. But those are not the same as losing our marbles. Relax. Breathe. Forgive Yourself. [Copyright 2007 Susie Mantell. All rights reserved. Federal law prohibits use of this content in whole or part without written consent of Relax. . .Intuit (tm)L.L.C. Kindly email reprint requests to info @ relaxintuit.com ] Enjoy more of Susie Mantell's stress-relief tips, and order "Your Present: A Half-Hour of Peace" at: www.relaxintuit.com

[Copyright 2007 Susie Mantell. All rights reserved. Federal law prohibits use of this content in whole or part without written consent of Relax. . .Intuit (tm)L.L.C. Kindly email reprint requests to info at relaxintuit.com ]

Enjoy more of Susie Mantell's stress-relief tips, and order her award-winning stress-relief audiobook, "Your Present: A Half-Hour of Peace" at:www.relaxintuit.com Susie Mantell's work intended as an adjunct to, not a substitute for, professional health care.

Author's Bio: 

Award-winning stress-relief expert Susie Mantell’s exquisitely soothing relaxation CD, “Your Present: A Half-Hour of Peace,” is clinically approved to soothe layer-after-layer of Stress and Sleeplessness, Depression, Anxiety, Grief, Fibromyalgia, Fatigue, Caregiver Stress, Cancer, Pain, P.T.S.D., Divorce, and Addictive Disease. Featured by The Los Angeles Times, ABC, NBC, CBS TV, Town & Country, The American Pain Society Hazelden and Susan G. Komen Cancer Foundation, listeners include The Mayo Clinic, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, and The Betty Ford Center. Mantell has facilitated thousands in relieving health-related, work-related, chronic or traumatic stress, customizing stress-reduction for Fortune 500 companies, The Arthritis Foundation, The Coca-Cola Company, Canyon Ranch Medical, Health & Healing Dept. and The National Conference on Loss. Her multi-sensory, mind-body techniques appear in syndicated media, corporate newsletters, and publications for medical professionals. Susie Mantell's website: http://www.relaxintuit.com/susiemantell.asp