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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June 30, 2009 – Volume 2, Issue #26

Quote to ponder under the apple tree

I love living. I have some problems with my life, but living is the best thing they've come up with so far.
~ Neil Simon (born July 4, 1927)

Resources to bite into

1. Born on the 4th of July *

Playwright Neil Simon has written hundreds of quotable lines, but today I particularly want to pass on his encouragement to believe in yourself and follow your bliss:
Don't listen to those who say, you’re taking too big a chance. Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor, and it would surely be rubbed out by today. Most important, don't listen when the little voice of fear inside you rears its ugly head and says, “They’re all smarter than you out there. They're more talented, they're taller, blonder, prettier, luckier, and they have connections.” I firmly believe that if you follow a path that interests you, not to the exclusion of love, sensitivity, and cooperation with others, but with the strength of conviction that you can move others by your own efforts . . . chances are you'll be a person worthy of your own respect.”

2. Celebrating Independence *

The current Brain Aerobics Weekly has an exercise in comparing statistics between Canada and the U.S. because far too many Americans are appallingly ignorant of our northern neighbor, and because Canada Day is July 1st and American Independence Day is July 4th. Moreover, all of the following countries also celebrate their independence in July: Algeria, Argentina, Belarus, Burundi, Ghana, Kiribati, Malawi, Peru, Rwanda and Venezuela.

3. Today is the 150th anniversary of Charles Blondin’s claim to fame *

Frenchman Jean-Francois Gravelet who went by the stage name Charles Blondin, first walked a tightrope across Niagara Falls on June 30, 1859 – 150 years ago – at the age of 35. It was a feat that he would repeat an incredible 17 times, with each crossing more daring than the previous one: Once he crossed the falls while blindfolded, once on stilts. Another time he carried his manager, Harry Colcord, on his back. Once he carried a small stove on his back, stopped at the middle of the rope and prepared himself an omelet, which he then ate as his amazed audience watched. He performed these risky feats until he was 74, then died peacefully in his sleep at 75.

* These items are easily adapted when working with people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Tips/ideas/insights to savor *

In my book, Getting to Know the Life Stories of Older Adults: Activities for Building Relationships, and in my workshops, one of my favorite exercises is “Make a Choice” in which I ask people to define themselves as one of two things. For example, “Are you more of an early bird or a night owl?” One of the most telling questions is “Are you more like a rose or a daisy?” because in their answers people usually describe characteristics they like about themselves, such as being cheerful and sunny for daisies and a more complex mixture of beauty and thorns for roses. It’s a great way to get to know people’s personal values. I adapted this activity in the current Brain Aerobics Weekly as an imaginative exercise that provides the opportunity to define yourself as a variety of flora from fruits, nuts, vegetables and flowers to the following two examples:

Describe yourself as a garden. What are its predominant features? Are you:
weedy or well-manicured?
full of blooming flowers and ripe vegetables or paved over?
adorned with whimsical gnomes or a labyrinth for serious meditation?
Or? ? ? and always say why

Describe yourself as a tree.
Are you evergreen or deciduous?
In what climate do you grow best?
Do you bear fruit or nuts? What kind?
Do you serve another purpose? What is it?
What are the characteristics of this tree that you share?

To order my book Getting to Know the Life Stories of Older Adults: Activities for Building Relationships, click here.
The first example above is adapted from the game Imaginiff. To order, click here.

Let the ever-ripening Wiser Now website become the apple of your eye.
-- Host a workshop, purchase materials or click on the blue print to sign up for Brain Aerobics Weekly and Wiser Now Alzheimer’s Disease Caregiver Tips.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Just a Bite June 22nd 2009

Quote to ponder under the apple tree

Growth itself contains the germ of happiness.
~ Pearl S. Buck (born June 26, 1892)

Resources to bite into

1. Murphy’s Law has many variations *

The current Brain Aerobics Weekly has an exercise in matching variations on Murphy’s Law (“If anything can go wrong, it will” – and some would add, “At the most inopportune time and it will be all your fault and everyone will know it.”) Personally, I take comfort in the idea that the universe is full of absurd maxims that can’t be reasonably fought. You have probably noticed many of them yourself, such as
The other line always moves faster – and if you switch lines, the one you were in will move faster.
If you put two pairs of socks in the dryer, when the load is finished one from each pair will be missing.
The Law of Window Polishing: It’s always on the other side.
What other ones can you add?

2. Columnist’s Day is June 23 *

Today is the perfect time to write an advice column or an editorial. What topic do you feel passionate about? Write out your thoughts and see if you can get them published in your local paper’s guest editorial column. Alternatively, think about the advice you might give to others – about dating, manners, fishing, bridge, home improvement or living well. Share it with your family or peers. If you have a lot to say, write a column weekly!

3. Happy Birthday Song is 150 years old this week! *

The melody for the song that would become “Happy Birthday” was composed on June 27, 1859 by Mildred J. Hill, according the Chase Calendar of Events. The “Happy Birthday” lyrics were added decades later by her younger sister, Patty Smith Hill. However, the words and music were eventually taken over by others and it wasn’t until long after the sisters’ deaths that their heirs won a lawsuit for copyright infringement on what is believed to be the most popular song EVER. Think of the millions of people who sing it every day! Who will you sing it for next?

* These items are easily adapted when working with people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Tips/ideas/insights to savor *

Also in the current Brain Aerobics Weekly is a discussion of an article that became a book by Amy Sutherland called What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love and Marriage, (The original article for the New York Times can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/25/fashion/25love.html) While researching another book about how animal trainers teach dolphins to flip and elephants to paint, she realized that many of the techniques would work on her husband. We, in turn, realize they provide good advice to almost anyone. Consider these ideas:

Approximations means rewarding the small steps toward learning a new behavior and ignoring behavior that doesn’t meet one’s standards. If you are trying to teach a baboon to do a flip, you first reward his hop, then his bigger hop and so on. In Ms. Sutherland’s case, she overcame her husband’s habit of leaving his dirty clothes on the bedroom floor by ignoring the piles and thanking him for each shirt placed in the hamper.

Incompatible behavior is based on the idea that one can’t do two things at once. Birds can only land in one place at a time, so a professional trainer who did not want African crested cranes to land on his head and shoulders taught them to land on mats on the ground instead. Rather than focusing on stopping a behavior, he taught them a new one. Ms. Sutherland taught her husband to stop crowding her while she was cooking by giving him parsley to chop or cheese to grate at the other end of the kitchen.

Least reinforcing syndrome or LRS is best explained by a dolphin trainer: “When a dolphin does something wrong,” Ms. Sutherland wrote, “the trainer doesn't respond in any way. He stands still for a few beats, careful not to look at the dolphin, and then returns to work. The idea is that any response, positive or negative, fuels a behavior. If a behavior provokes no response, it typically dies away.” This is how she now deals with her husband when he huffs and puffs about the house looking for lost keys. Eventually he finds them on his own, and she just says, "Great, see you later."

Think about these ideas and how they might work with your children, grandchildren, coworkers, and others.

To order What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love and Marriage, click here.

Let the ever-ripening Wiser Now website become the apple of your eye.
-- Host a workshop, purchase materials or click on the blue print to sign up for Brain Aerobics Weekly. and Wiser Now Alzheimer’s Disease Caregiver Tips.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Just a Bite 6-16-09

Quote to ponder under the apple tree

Democracy is finding proximate solutions to insoluble problems.
~ Reinhold Niebuhr (born June 21, 1892)

Resources to bite into

1. In honor of Father’s Day, quotable fathers *

The current Brain Aerobics Weekly includes an exercise in sharing what we have learned from our fathers (or another strong parental figure). As father figures go, few match Reinhold Niebuhr’s challenge to us to be better than we are. He is widely credited as the author of the Serenity Prayer, that is, the original version which asks for “the courage to change what I should.” As adapted by Alcoholics Anonymous and others, it reads “the courage to change what I can.” The Rev. Niebuhr believed in holding us morally accountable. It’s easy to say we can’t change something, but he said that didn’t mean it shouldn’t be changed and that we weren’t still liable for working to make it happen. Both John McCain and Barack Obama cited this philosopher’s influence on them in the last presidential election. Read up on him!

2. Overcoming stereotype threat *

The current issue of Brain Aerobics Weekly contains excerpts from an article by John Cloud in Time Magazine, “How Stereotypes Defeat the Stereotyped” (May, 09, 2009, http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1897009,00.html?xid=newsletter-daily). Most of us know that when little is expected of us, the prophecy is often self-fulfilling, but the article noted that the opposite was also true. Whatever your age, you are likely to perform better if you are reminded of you strengths. Therefore, Mr. Cloud suggests, telling your grandmother when you talk to her “that she's always the one who remembers the grandkids' birthdays or who recalls all the measurements in the family biscuit recipe (or, if you're from New England, the family martini recipe),” just might make it a bit easier for her to find her car keys the next time she has misplaced them.

3. Summer arrives officially on June 21 *

Summer is coming, summer is coming.
I know it, I know it, I know it.
Light again, leaf again, life again, love again,
Yes, my wild little Poet.
~ Alfred Lord Tennyson

* These items are easily adapted when working with people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Tips/ideas/insights to savor *

As noted above, stereotype threat can be overcome by voicing encouragement and high expectations that a person will succeed. However, it helps immeasurably to know what a person considers his or her strengths or what words or actions are that person’s best confidence boosters. For example, if I take pride in being a well-organized person, I would be pleased when someone recognizes me for using that strength to help an event run smoothly. Most of us are not used to bragging about ourselves, and yet self-confidence – which tends to induce confidence of others in our abilities – is a key factor in success. So give it a try. On your own or as a group exercise, fill in the blanks and share your answers:
One school subject that was always easy for me (and that I still enjoy) was _________________
One way in which I am creative is (for example, singing, dancing, playing an instrument, writing poetry, artistic) _______________________
One thing I am good at and proud of is ______________________
The thing I like best about my personality is my ____________________
I am most friendly towards others when ________________
I tend to be most confident about my appearance when I am wearing _______________________
Add whatever other questions tickle your fancy.

In addition to wanting to be known for what we are already confident of (secretly or not), it’s also nice to be praised unexpectedly:
“Wow, you handled that disgruntled customer wonderfully! I’m impressed.”
“I didn’t know you were such a good dancer.”
“Thanks for speaking up for ______; that took courage.”

Try it, and your days will be far more satisfying for yourself and others.

Let the ever-ripening Wiser Now website become the apple of your eye.
-- Host a workshop, purchase materials or click on the blue print to sign up for Brain Aerobics Weekly. and Wiser Now Alzheimer’s Disease Caregiver Tips.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Just a Bite June 9th, 2009

Quote to ponder under the apple tree

A doctor can bury his mistakes,
but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.
~ Frank Lloyd Wright (born June 8, 1867)

Resources to bite into

1. A month to celebrate architecture *

The current Brain Aerobics Weekly features a trivia quiz about famous architects. People have been building amazing structures at least since the days of Imhotep, who is recognized as the architect of Egypt's first pyramid (for King Djoser, who reigned 2630–2611 BCE). The millennia since then have brought us soaring cathedrals, ornate palaces (from Versailles to China’s Forbidden City) as well as fascinating enigmas like Easter Island heads. In the last 100 years, Frank Lloyd Wright was probably the most familiar architect, (Shown here is his Falling Water house), but the world’s tallest building in Dubai and the Bird’s Nest stadium created for last summer’s Beijing Olympics, are just two indications that we have entered an exciting new global architectural age.

2. Sweets for all *

June is Candy Month, a time for sweet thoughts. Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Puzzle Book #2 edited by Stephanie Spadaccini has a quiz about unsuccessful candy bar efforts including:
A vegetable sandwich bar
A chicken dinner bar
A Zep bar – named after the Zeppelin dirigible that was taken off the market when the Hindenburg crashed
A Sal-Le-Dande Bar named after the fan dancer Sally Rand
The current issue of Brain Aerobics Weekly asks you to design your own candy bar, healthy or decadent. What ingredients would you choose?

3. Donald Duck turns 75 *

Donald Duck, one of the most popular of the Disney cartoon characters, made his debut in the Silly Symphony cartoon "The Wise Little Hen" on June 9, 1934, so he officially

turns 75 this week. According to Leonard Maltin in his introduction to The Chronological Donald - Volume 1, Donald was created by Walt Disney when he heard Clarence Nash doing his "duck" voice while reciting "Mary had a little lamb." “Ducky” Nash became Donald’s hilarious and much imitated voice for the next 50 years.

Do you know anyone who can imitate Donald Duck? Can you? Does his voice make you laugh? (It always does me!)

* These items are easily adapted when working with people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Tips/ideas/insights to savor

I am the frequent recipient of unsolicited emails from friends intending to brighten my day, and am always (hint, hint to all of you) happy to receive ideas for clean humor that I might use in future issues of my publications. I am also usually an easy mark for funny animal pictures, silly videos, and interesting websites, but I am wary of the syrupy life advice that comes complete with music and slides, even when the advice is good. However, this week, I was taken by a phrase in one of those syrupy offerings: energy vampires.

We all define them personally – What saps my energy probably isn’t what saps yours, although we all can likely name people, events, activities and duties that are blood suckers. I have been emotionally exhausted today by a problem that cannot be quickly resolved. I had been looking forward to a meeting at which I hoped we would be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and the tunnel just ended up getting longer. The result was emotional fatigue, impatience, clumsiness, and careless mistakes.

There are two steps to overcoming energy vampires. The first is simply to acknowledge them. Shining daylight on them makes them cower, and making a list of them can often help us avoid them all together.

The second step is to make a list of what lights your fire and scares the vampires away. In my case it is friends, tasty food and lots of laughter. I am off to a dinner now at a new Indian restaurant with two people who value me. I expect to smile a lot.

Let the ever-ripening Wiser Now website become the apple of your eye.
-- Host a workshop, purchase materials or click on the blue print to sign up for Brain Aerobics Weekly. and Wiser Now Alzheimer’s Disease Caregiver Tips.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Just a Bite June 2nd, 2009

Quote to ponder under the apple tree

I know but one freedom, and that is the freedom of the mind.
~ Antoine de Saint Exupery (born June 29, 1900)

Resources to bite into

1. Reintroduce yourself to children’s literature *
The current issue of Brain Aerobics Weekly provides brief bios of four famous children’s authors with June birthdays, and encourages adults to reread for themselves as well as for their children or grandchildren what once inspired them. Antoine de Saint Exupery’s most famous work, The Little Prince, which has been described as “a children’s fable for adults” is especially appropriate. One of the most popular books of all time since its 1943 publication, the author did not know its success. A lifelong pilot, he died while flying over the Mediter-ranean on a World War II mission for the French military. Look him up and read more!

2. Mondegreens

As also noted in the current issue of Brain Aerobics Weekly, mondegreens are (often comically) misunderstood lines of poetry and song. For example:
· “Jose, can you see?” is “O, Say can you see?” in “The Star Spangled Banner”
· “The ants are my friends, they're blowing in the wind” is “The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind” by Bob Dylan
· “Got a lot of lucky peanuts” is “Got a lot of love between us” by Frankie Vallee and the Four Seasons
Find more at http://www.corsinet.com/braincandy/wrlyric.html

3. Six word novels and autobiographies *

Another feature in the current issue of Brain Aerobics Weekly is the book Not Quite What I Was Planning, Revised and Expanded Deluxe Edition: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser. Could you sum up your life in six words? Here are samples:
70 years, few tears, hairy ears.
Lost five pounds: the wrong five.
Outcast. Picked last. Surprised them all.
To order the book, click here.

* These items are easily adapted when working with people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Tips/ideas/insights to savor

I have frequently used the word puzzle at left which translates as “Do not underestimate me,” as a reminder to elder care staff to recognize that although the people they care for may have dementia or physical frailties, what remains is still substantial and needs to be honored. It is a message that bears periodic repeating. However, last week I had an experience that gives the graphic new meaning.

In the months ahead, I may have an opportunity to create an online learning program for the Green House Project, one amazing element in Bill Thomas’s vision for transforming nursing home care. As a precursor, I spent last week observing staff training for a nursing home in rural Arkansas that is moving from a highly traditional model to the Green House Model, which will be a series of five lovely group homes of 12 residents each. The training was capably led by two longtime friends and colleagues of mine, Bill Keane and Anna Ortigara, and my new CNA friend/inspiration Emma Williams. Their passion, enthusiasm and joy was wonderful to watch, but even more thrilling was the staff transformation they engendered, particularly in the CNAs.

CNAs are seldom accorded the respect they deserve, but this group was especially easy to discount. They were not well educated, and they had a narrow world view – most of them had little experience beyond the small rural Arkansas towns they had grown up in. Add to that the fact that many of us on the east and west coasts of the U.S. could easily be convinced they were rubes and country bumpkins of limited potential. Indeed, throughout their lives little has been expected of them.

Then along came a businessman who thought local elders deserved better care and that the nursing home’s current employees could meet that challenge. Bill and Anna arrived for the first six days of training to introduce the coming changes. Suddenly, CNAs who had never even attended a care planning meeting for a resident proved they could lead the meeting. A little light began to shine in the first few days, but by the sixth day they were on fire with the possibilities within themselves. I have long known not to underestimate elders, but now I will also never again underestimate what ANY well-trained, empowered and motivated staff can achieve.

Let the ever-ripening Wiser Now website become the apple of your eye.
-- Host a workshop, purchase materials or click on the blue print to sign up for Brain Aerobics Weekly. and Wiser Now Alzheimer’s Disease Caregiver Tips.