A New Adventure…


Whew…it was a busy and exciting month!

September 10, was the launch of a new adventure with Lumedia Musicworks (visit www.lumediamusicworks.com/events).

With Julianna and Christopher, we created and presented “Soundscapes of Colonial America.” This was a combination of classical music and a history lesson, which provided an interesting twist for the audiences. There were three venues – the senior communities of Belmont Village and Traditions, then the evening of Wednesday the 12th we were at the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.

Historical background stories were given by me, while Lumedia provided the classical music. Brad Bennight played harpsichord (which he built himself!), Stephanie Raby on violin and Christopher Phillpott on cello. Christopher selected compositions from Thomas Jefferson’s music library, a piece written by Benjamin Franklin, and other popular music from the times – including “Federal March” by Alexander Reinagle, Sonata #1, Op.5 by Arcangelo Corelli, the fiddle tune “Irish Washerwoman,” and Johann Christian Bach’s Sonata in C major for harpsichord and violin. Stephanie’s rendition of “Bonaparte’s Retreat”/Hoedown was a toe tapping hit. The finale was everyone singing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”

The most popular aftermath…show and tell with Bret and his harpsichord.

Be sure to visit Lumedia Musicworks (www.lumediamusicoompany.com) to see more information about their work and watch for future collaborations with “Remembering When.” Pictures will be posted soon.

If you’d be interested in hosting a presentation or have questions don’t hesitate to contact us.

ALSO…. The ‘Remembering When’ site is getting a face lift in October.   New layout design, new subjects with educational links and expanded interests. Be sure to check it out.

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Advocacy Forum June 2018

Report from Washington June 17-19, 2018

This was my first trip to the Alzheimer’s Advocacy Forum in Washington DC. There was a lot of activity, information and learning packed into 2 ½ days.

With over 1200 volunteers and staff to usher around a huge kudos goes out to the Alzheimer’s organization team and the Wardman Park Marriott for a flawless event!

Our goal was to make ourselves heard on Capitol Hill…and we did. On Tuesday it was hard to miss the Purple Palooza around capitol office buildings.

Volunteers from all 50 states arrived on the Hill for scheduled appointments with their senators and representatives to ask for support to co-sponsor Alzheimer’s legislation.

The message to the Hill was simple and clear. It’s a message the public needs to know also. So here we go…

Three new proposals were discussed. This sounds like a political proposal, but that’s what it is… news you can use!

Building Our Largest Dementia Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act

Or BOLD (Senate bill 2076/House bill 4256)

  • This bipartisan public-health bill will bring a level of change directly to those living with the disease and their caregivers.
  • The investment would establish Alzheimer’s centers across the country to increase early detection and diagnosis, reduce risk and avoid unnecessary hospitalizations.
  • A savings to Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Would also provide educational opportunities for doctors, nurses and caregivers so they’ll be ‘in front’ of this disease to enhance proper diagnosis.
  • This is to be supported by state and local funding as well.

The next two proposals will be the next post!

Be sure to sign up to automatically receive future posts.

Thanks, Elaine

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A New Direction for Remembering When

Living with Alzheimer’s

There’s a new focus at Remembering When. Personal History will play an important supportive role as part of its educational toolbox. Living with Alzheimer’s will be the educational building project.

The goal for Remembering When’s blog is to share tools. To spread knowledge not just about Alzheimer’s disease, but how to live with it day to day. It’s a building project. The most important tools needed, how to use knowledge and understanding.

As a Historical Storyteller and Personal Historian, a lot of time is spent with seniors. Experience was built as a volunteer at a memory care community. That turned into a part-time job. Then, as a Toastmaster, it was an easy step to be part of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Speaker’s Bureau. Interest and knowledge grew. Next came assignments as a facilitator to the Alzheimer’s Association’s Changing Gears program and follow up support groups. Work with the Center for Brain Health and Baylor Memory Center have all provided additional learning tools.

At Remembering When, questions will be addressed. What does exercise, diet, meditation and socialization have to do with Alzheimer’s? Is there a difference in dementia and Alzheimer’s? How to deal with hearing repeated stories and what to do when they drive you nuts and suggestions on what to considered when making future financial plans. Watch for updates on research and what’s being done.

Let’s see what develops. Watch for posts on new activities, new tools and how to use knowledge to improve lives. We’ll do our best to help explain your concerns and frustrations.

Looking forward to your support,

Remembering When


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Dementia and Special Family Events…any time of year…

I.  Plan ahead, be prepared.

1. Let family and friends know how they can help.

2.  Be open with everyone about behavior changes.

3.  Offer and ask for suggestions.

4.  Discuss activities and responsibilities. (see IV below).

5.  Organize a ‘tag team’ to help share time with their loved one.

i.  One person should NOT have total responsibility.

II.  Understnad the degree of dementia.

1.  Be sure everyone is aware of the situation and is comfortable with responsibilities.

2.  Is it ‘early stage’ MCI (mild cognitive impairment).

3.  Or a ‘mid stage’ dementia.

4.  Speak clearly, avoid long questions with long answers.

5.  Keep it simple.

6.  DO NOT say ‘Don’t you remember?”

7.  DO NOT  criticize, stay positive.

8.  DO NOT  argue, you won’t win.

9.  Let them repeat the same comment over and over.

i.  Give the same answer with the same enthusiasm.

ii.  ‘Did you have to travel far to be here today?’

1.  ‘No grandma, just a few miles.’

2. Don’t give a long story about traffic or weather.

10.  Most important everyone, BE PATIENT.

III.  Plan activities for early in the day. A noon meal instead of dinner.

IV.  Does your loved one live with you or will they visit?

1.  If visiting, arrange to arrive just before the main event and watch their level of                        involvement to know when it’s time to leave.

2.  If they live at home, try to stay on their routine as much as possible to keep things                calm and fun.

3.  If things become hectic have activities for the ‘tag team’ to use.

i.  Keep old family pictures or albums close by that are familiar and will stimulate a                  personal conversaion.

ii.  If mom always planned and cooked the meal give her an assignment with a ‘tag                     team’ member to ‘help’.

1. Give her an apron.

2.  Set the table, wash dishes, bring prepared dishes to the table, stir mashed                                potatoes.

a. She made hers’ a certain way…let her tell you.

iii.  What did grandpa like to do?

1.  Read the paper, tell stories, play with the train set.

a. Did he hunt or fish?

2.  Guess what’s in gift packages.

3.  Play music, dance, sing.

4.  Find their interest and recreate it.

5.  If he didn’t have an interst in football DO NOT sit him in front of the TV to                             watch the games!

6.  When in doubt, ask him what he liked and follow his lead.

V.  In general:

i. Be aware of this different situation and empower your ‘tag team’.

ii.  Use common sense and consider how you’d like o be treated if the circumstances                   were reversed.



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With Knowledge We Conquer Fear

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!”

Memorable words spoken by Franklin Delano Roosevelt at his first inauguration in 1933. His speech goes on to say; fear of the unknown produces fearful reactions. Knowledge and confidence helps deal with those fears.

His statement:

This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself— nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance”.

In the next 20-30 years, some form of dementia will touch our lives. It could be a neighbor, work associate or family member. A fearful thought; it’s time to convert retreat into advance.

When I began as a volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association, I wanted to learn more about the disease. A quick way to do that was to become part of the Alzheimer’s Speaker’s Bureau.

The more I learned, the more I saw a need to share this [ALZ] knowledge with others. Armed with knowledge, we can fight the fear of Alzheimer’s.

As a volunteer, my goal became, spread the word:

1)   to help others understand what is happening – that’s knowledge

2)   to share information about helpful programs on what to do next and what to expect next -that’s knowledge.

3)  to give caregivers support so they don’t feel alone – that, is knowledge

Until there’s a cure, if we’re armed with knowledge, we can face the challenges of Alzheimer’s and discover meaning in all that we go through.

Become a volunteer and spread the knowledge!

During September & October this fall, watch for the dates of your local Alzheimer’s Associaion annual Walk to END Alzheimer’s. It’s a time to get involved with a cause that will be part of our lives.

Sign up on Remembering When to receive updates on how an individual can gain KNOWLEDGE in the challenge to face Alzheimer’s. If we’re armed with knowledge, we can face the challenges of Alzheimer’s and discover meaning in all that we go through. LEARN to capture the essense of an individual, to look past the disease. So if for only a moment, we’re able to ‘find’ them, there is meaning in what we go through.

Start a team…go to www.alz.org/walk

In the Dallas area:

September 23 – Heritage Plaza, Longview, TX

September 30 – Downtown Ennis, TX  & Grandscape, The Colony, TX

October 7 – Dallas City Hall Plaza, Dallas, TX

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Pick a Person

Take a minute to think about this:

Imagine someone you’ve known a long time, someone close. This might be a parent, brother, sister, spouse, relative or a close friend.

Now depending on your choice, do you like them? Maybe you love them, but at times it can be a challenge to be around them. Or maybe they’re someone you’ve admired and learned from over the years.

They could be younger, but let’s assume they’re over 65 or 70 years of age. They’re vibrant active people. How often do you see them? Have there been opportunities to spend real time with them or has it slipped away? Has that happened too often?

Time passes. When you see them again, there are subtle changes, nothing that would disrupt the day. Something could be funny and you both laugh, but did they get it? Different ‘little’ things become more noticeable…yet they don’t seem to notice. If they do, it upsets them.

Maybe they can’t find something, or don’t know it’s lost. Next you notice questions or comments are being repeated. Or there’s a change in their physical appearance, the smoothness of their gait is no longer fluid, it’s become halting.

Time passes. This special person can no longer be by themselves. They need continued assistance with daily life. Yet they’re excited to see you, to talk, to reminisce.

What has happened to this loved one, this close friend? They don’t know you. Where are they? What’s happening?

Reality sets in…you’ve lost them. It’s been a slow steady decline, but you missed it, it was right there. The ability to speak or write has disappeared, they no longer feed themselves. Yet on occasion, a glimmer of life can be seen in their eyes. The time to share, to understand, to reminisce is gone. The challenges from the past have faded, they’re no longer an issue. Your shared memories are all you have, their memories are silent.

Progression varies but eventually walking and sitting are difficult. In time, your special person is bedridden until the end. It may take a decade or more to witness this entire event.

This is Alzheimer’s disease. Eventually it will affect all of us in some way. What do we do about it? How do we cope?

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The Importance of a Hug

It doesn’t sound like much, a hug, but it’s a figure of touch that will release emotions people didn’t know existed.

It was a simple request, “Why don’t you give me a hug before you leave.” That was from daddy as I prepared to leave after one of my last visits. He’d never said that before. There was no hesitation on my part. Even in the touch of his frail, thin body there was strength and meaning. It was a slow, shy hug at first that became warm and strong, from both of us, one to another. We’d done that once before when I was 17…and in trouble!

You may have heard the story of Dan Peterson and Nora Wood of Augusta Georgia. A seemingly simple hug from a stranger changed lives, it opened hearts. If you haven’t heard the story, Google search the names.

Now use Personal History to reach out to a dementia patient. Like a hug, it can help discover lost emotions. It also helps to calm many fears.

First review past posts on How To Use TalkShare and Learn to Relax and Listen I & II. That will get you started…and remember the meaning of the word patience.

Remember these words also:    Compassion and Acceptance

Be aware of a patient’s feelings, be with them.

Be patient, don’t prejudge. This unique person has knowledge and wisdom to offer. Give it a try…listen.

Be accepting and honest.

Give them a HUG!

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

Atticus Finch/Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird


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Christmas Stories 2016

Here it is Christmas Eve 2016…a good time for stories. There’s always a Christmas memory or favorite story to be told. This year, be sure to make new ones and share old ones.

Here’s my contribution….


Growing up mother’s Cranberry Nut Bread was always a favorite. It was best lightly toasted, which allowed melted butter to drizzle through the nooks and crannies and eventually surround the nuts and berries.

She made it every year for as long as I remember. Her mother made it too…a family recipe of sorts. When I got married, mother wrote the recipe out line by line on an index card for my new recipe box.

Myself, as a young mother and air force wife traveling around, mother’s Cranberry Nut Bread became a great holiday ‘food gift’…and always a hit. Over the years there were many requests for the now Christmas Cranberry Nut Bread recipe. Once after a neighbor tried her ‘gift’, she came over, excited and asked… ‘What is this? It’s delicious! I didn’t know what to think when you said ‘cranberry nut bread’. I was thinking something terrible…but I need the recipe!”

Christmas Cranberry Nut Bread took on the shapes of mini loaves, muffins and even a Christmas wreath.

One Thanksgiving I tasted ‘real cranberry sauce’.  Not the jellied stuff in a can…until then, that’s all I knew about cranberry sauce. I asked about the recipe and was told to look on the back of the Ocean Spray Cranberry bag…and there it was…

…right above the Cranberry Nut Bread recipe!

Could it be? Mother’s Cranberry Nut Bread was the company recipe on the plastic cranberry bag! Not a family recipe passed down from my grandmother! A few minor adjustments had been made but it was the same recipe.

The one consolation…it is a great recipe passed down from my grandma Cunningham to mother then me…Janell will have it too…it’s on mother’s index card and the Ocean Spray cranberry bag!

Do you have a similar story? Let’s share and see how many we find. Be sure to keep your story, pass it along AND write it down.

Wonderful wishes to everyone for a great holiday season and a memory making 2017!



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November 2016…a year later

There’s been a lot happening the last couple months.

It was about a year ago my sister Ginny and I met in Augusta to see daddy (1st post Nov 2015). For me, it was our last face to face visit.

On Dec 16 this year he would have been 97. That’s a lot of years. I still see ‘Daddy’ listed in my phone contacts. It will stay there. There will be a sad sigh next June as I pass the aisle filled with Father’s Day cards. He’s not here, but what we have are his stories and his voice. Those 19 audio tapes he recorded about his life are even more precious now. Thank you daddy.

For me what’s become an even greater treasure, the reminisces of the last 15-17 years. While on visits to see him and mother, he’d talk about his life, our family, and his thoughts and views about things. The more he talked about himself, the more I learned about myself. Our similarities were the most surprising.

Besides sharing historical family information, it was a time of reflection for him, his personal story, his accomplishments. It was fun to see him relive his grade school days in Ben’s Creek, the pride in his military career and his attraction and love for mother.

It was wonderful to witness.


So, the next time mother, dad, grandma or uncle Joe begin to talk about the ‘good ol’ days’, ask uncle Joe to tell you what he did for Halloween tricks. Listen to the story…again! Ask yourself, do I sound like grandma when I laugh or is my curly hair like hers? Use this time to discover and share with them.

It’s an opportunity to learn something new. Ask more questions! Be sure to video, audio or document the experience. It’s fun!

Dementia patients benefit from the simple experience of telling their story. It’s not a drug, but it can calm an excited patient or client. It’s not a cure yet the moment is positive and  will come back again. Let them talk. Listen for the value of who they are and what they accomplished. It doesn’t matter if they drove a Sherman tank for General Patton or took care of the kids while daddy worked.

The fact that you show an interest in them makes a connection on a personal level. It won’t be forgotten. It builds trust and recognition. Set the same time each day or each week just to talk. Tuesday at 2:00. They will look forward to it. A special time they will understand and remember. It becomes a habit.

Give them a hug. It’s a time for everyone to feel good. And it feels good to be hugged… at any age.

At the same time, besides family history we learn about ourselves.

Our lives revolve around stories. What we did at work, at school. High school reunions are full of ‘old stories’…and why…it feels good telling them. It’s the communication with others.

As we age, our stories, good, bad and sad are part of who we are. It’s one connection that pulls us ‘out of the present.’ A time to daydream about ourselves. It includes talking about what could have happened… ‘then your mother came along’, or at another time ‘you came along! That changed everything.’

Each life has a pattern. Each life is an experience that has meaning. Each life can be re-discovered. That’s the goal of Remembering When/TalkShare.


…A perfect time to share and record stories. Do it now so there’re no regrets later.

Remember, every time a life ends it’s like a library burned down and there’s no way to rebuild it. Because of technology, future families 20, 50, 200 years from now will know their ancestors. Whether on DVD or written in a scrap book they will know their story… if time is taken to record it.

Let us know how your holiday recording turned out. Has time been added to the calendar for regular visits to let someone know you care?

Be sure to sign up to receive updates and new blog information.

Thanks and have a wonderful holiday season…Elaine




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How to Use TalkShare

A couple years ago for a Toastmasters project I decide to compile my experience, research and knowledge about Personal History and dementia into a speech titled TalkShare.

Read on to see how it works.

Good evening members and guests:

  • Over the past couple of years, several of my speech topics have been about Personal History
    • How to start it and share it with family members
    • And why it’s important


Now, think of Personal History as a conduit to a TalkShare. Let me explain:

At the turn of another century….1899-1900

  • Senility was considered a normal part of aging
  • By the 1970s it was known as dementia – a disease related to aging
  • Currently, dementia is an umbrella term for several types of memory loss and aging is one risk factor
    • Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, vascular dementia, head trauma, a tumor, Lewy Bodies and Huntington’s disease all have a place under the dementia umbrella.
    • The first and most important step is to find the correct diagnosis for memory loss
      • The treatment for vascular dementia,  or Parkinson’s is different than treatment for Alzheimer’s


No matter how hard we try, the phenomenon of aging won’t stop

  • Common aging battles include
    • Gravity
    • Gray and/or thinning hair
    • Things begin to hurt that never hurt before
    • Eyesight and hearing diminish
    • Our brains aren’t the same
  • “What’s that name/that word…it’s on the tip of my tongue”
  • “Where are my keys? I’ll be late picking up the kids!”
    • That’s not always memory loss, it’s more like information overload or stress.

The word Alzheimer’s began to creep into mainstream vocabulary around the 1980s or so.

  • In the last 30-35 years it’s become more common
  • More research dollars are being spent
  • Much has been learned, but many questions remain

What does this mean to each of us?

  • Some form of memory loss will touch our lives
  • It could be a relative, friend or a co-worker’s neighbor!
  • In some way it will touch us
  • Possibly as individuals

Situations differ yet some facts are the same

  • With early on-set Alzheimer’s
    • The disease can take over the lives of young people in their 50 & 60 or earlier
      • In these rare occasions there’s a more rapid decline
      • Being young isn’t necessarily better
        • The metabolism is faster so everything accelerates
        • It’s more gradual in an aging person
  • It doesn’t end with the memory loss of what happened yesterday…
    • Awareness of communication usually breaks down first
    • Writing ability diminishes
    • Language is lost
    • All stages vary but eventually walking, sitting, even eating is difficult
      • In time the individual is bedridden
    • A family could watch this decline for up to a decade

It will affect us. What do we do about it? How do we cope?

While waiting for a medical answer, there are ways to turn this declining time into a meaningful experience. To touch lives in a way that will enrich related generations… HOW?

 Begin to TalkShare – using Personal History

The following ideas will help lay the foundation for everyone to discover forgotten memories. Once revived, these memories resurface as renewed moments to be remembered by everyone in the present family and future generations.


  • Be consistent, it’s best to set a time to TalkShare
    • Each Tuesday at 2:00 or mornings at 10:00 for two hours
      • Whatever time works best
    • Establish an easy going mood
    • Be at eye level to talk with the individual
    • Use pleasant words and add compliments
      • “I love what you’re wearing today…did you pick it out?”
      • Even if it’s terrible!


  • Use Personal History to reach for those hidden memories that will produce a smile or even laughter
  • Look into their eyes, the answers will be there

Begin with broad easy questions:

  • Where were you born, name family members and any pets
  • Describe the house where you were raised
  • If no answer, move on to another question
    • Eventually circle back to a previously unanswered question
    • Slowly the answers will become more detailed
  • Laugh and be amazed each time they tell the same story.
  • For them, it’s the first time to tell it.
  • Act as if it’s the first time to hear it!


Another ice breaker is to organize pictures

  • Ask for their help to identify people in a picture
  • What was the occasion?
  • Figure the date/time-line
  • Encourage their participation
    • Let them know they’re the best person to help do this
  • Does the picture or story spark emotions?
  • Which is their favorite story and why?
  • Reinforce the need for their wisdom and knowledge to compete the task.

Listen for the story. Remember it and use the information again later

  • Acknowledge difficulties with past issues, present concerns and share similar experiences
    • But don’t dwell on negative or difficult situations
  • Play mind exercises to stimulate memories
    • Name the presidents during their life time
    • How many cars did they own? Name them
    • Use easy words
    • Ask simple questions in short sentences
      • An involved question can become frustrating and cause withdrawal
  • Watch the pitch, loudness and tone of your voice…allow for pauses. Use vocal variety
      • This begins to sound like goals from the Toastmaster Competent Communicator manual – Vocal Variety
      •  It works!

Make them feel important

  • Use Touch – When listening to a story, gently place a hand on their elbow or gently hold a hand
  • Smell – If possible bake, cook or talk about favorite aromas to connect a memory and story
  •  Music – a great use of ITunes
    • Discover their favorite music period – big band, rock and roll, classical, jazz
    • Make it toe tapping, dance, sing
  • Watch – your facial expressions and gestures
    • Don’t make them too large
      • It can be frightening
    • We want pleasant memories

Using Personal History as a guide will help make these connections.

Everyone knows the saying, “Walk a mile in another man’s shoes”…well…

Consider entering their mind for awhile. See how Personal History can dig deep and arouse a sleeping memory and capture an emotion. A smile will broaden on the lips or a tear can moisten the eye. The thoughts may not last long but they’ve been captured and can be released again and again. These personal memories will continue to be cherished by loved ones and future generations.

You’ve experienced a TalkShare…using Personal History.

This was a 6-8 minute speech. Expand on the ideas and make it fit your situation.

The speech provides helpful information to be used as a guideline to begin communication with a loved one or a caregiver’s client.

Let us know how it works. Share your experiences.

Here’s one example:

After meeting Bill each Thursday at 1:00 for 24 hours (12 weeks) it was time for a review and to put his thoughts on paper. Instead, he didn’t want to stop. When asked why, he said. “While doing this I started to think of things I haven’t thought about in 70 years. There’s more to tell!”

Don’t wait for dementia to cloud the mind to explore a personal history. It can be done at any time. The sooner the better.

An easy start is to set time aside each week to identify pictures and connect them to a story. Ask grandma or whomever, to help with names and places, you’ll enjoy the time together.

Listen and learn their stories through pictures. Their long term memory is very good. Let them make the connection. Let them recall what THEY enjoyed. NOT what WE feel it SHOULD be.

Besides actual photo albums, edit all those pictures on phones and computers. Can everyone be named, is there a location or special memory of the occasion? Make picture ID a TalkShare experience with the kids. Discover their memories of the wedding, reunion or birthday party. Video their answer holding the pictures, write it down. You’ll be glad you did. And be sure to make it fun.

Enjoy the time together and let us know how it went. Also if you have any questions just ask.

Be sure to sign up to receive future updates…

Thanks for your time and may God Bless…Elaine

Other connections:

Association of Personal Historians – http://www.personalhistorians.org

Alzheimer’s Association – www.alz.org/dementia/types

Toastmasters International – www.toastmasters.org

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