How many times have you entered a room and could not remember why you went there? Those names on the tip of your tongue don’t come to you until it is too late. And where, oh where, did you put your keys? Cellphone?
Last week I went to camp for a day. Brain Boot Camp. Several months ago I received a call from the Longevity Center at UCLA. They were offering a Brain Boot Camp session for People with Parkinson’s at a discount. Would I be interested in organizing it for my group? I sent an email out and got a great response from the LA based Parkie’s on my list. So much so that we had to schedule a second session to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend.
Memory problems are not unique to Parkinson’s. They are common with aging. However, cognitive decline is a big problem for many Parkies, so this class was just one more form of therapy for us to keep our Brains functioning as well as possible. We can help to slow the cognitive decline by working our brains on an ongoing process. Just going to one class is not going to have a lasting effect. It was really a jumpstart for us. Now we need to utilize the tools we were given. In addition to the strategies that we learned for memory, there are other things we can do to keep the neurons functioning. We talked about diet, sleep, and activities such as learning a new skill, a new language, or musical instrument, doing crossword puzzles, sudoku, and other brain games that are offered online.
Last week was the first of two sessions, led by Angela Huntsman, PhD. Brain Boot Camp is a memory class that was developed by Dr. Gary Small, professor of Psychiatry and Director of the UCLA Longevity Center, to help people learn strategies to improve their memory. His book, “2 Weeks To A Younger Brain: An Innovative Program for a Better Memory and Sharper Mind” covers what we learned in class and more. In the class we learned about the different types of memory and how they are stored in the brain. We also discussed diet, sleep and other factors that may affect memory.
Dr. Huntsman began with a story. She met her new neighbors, Brett and Kate, and wanted to find a way to remember their names. Aha! Brett reminded her of her Brita water filter. Unfortunately I don’t remember what her clue was for Kate, I apparently did not commit it to my long term memory. Periodically throughout the day, she would ask us who her new neighbors were, and we all remembered! By telling us the story, we had to focus, so recall became much easier.
The key to improving your memory is to FOCUS. Too many times we don’t pay enough attention to remember things, which can be an embarrassment when you have forgotten your host’s name 5 minutes after being introduced. We usually can remember 5-7 chunks of info, so to remember the names of those people you just met or that grocery list, find a way to make it meaningul. It could be putting the names or items together in a story, or visualization.
The first class was great. Everyone who attended really enjoyed it. The second class will be held next Wednesday, October 24 at 9:00 am at UCLA. There are still a few spots available, so please get in touch with me by Sunday if you want to attend.* There are classes offered around the country. To find out if there is one near you, click here.
Additional support for this event was provided by the Meyrow Foundation’s Wellness Fund