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I am currently looking into the work of Karen and Tom Brenner of Brenner Pathways. I am inviting you to visit their website  www.brennerpathways.org  and view the amazing video “Montessori Stepping Stones – Brenner Pathways.  As I am a devoted enthusiast of Montessori for the young, their work in employing Montessori Sensorial learning with dementia and Alzheimers patients has really caught my attention and interest.

I share below a writing from Karen’s website blog with a good reminder for us (who can) “remember” not to use the word remember with our afflicted loved ones. This is precious to learn.  I decided not to paraphrase or describe what she has said here, for she says it only too well.

From the writing of Karen Brenner MA

“Did you know that there are different memory systems at work in our brains?  One of those systems is the declarative memory system. This is the memory system that affects short term memory, language, facts, recent episodes and executive function (the ability to make large and small decisions.)  This is why a person living with Alzheimer’s often cannot remember things that happened five minutes ago, or remember the names of loved ones, or struggles to make the simplest decisions. Just as the lyrics from the old Frank Sinatra song describes:

“It seems we stood and talked like this before. We looked at each other
in the same way then, but I can’t remember where or when.

For someone living with Alzheimer’s, it is as though someone walks in every five minutes with a magic wand, waves the wand, and poof, everything that just happened to them in the last few minutes disappears. This disappearing act happens every few minutes, all day long. Can you imagine how frustrating, how frightening, how aggravating this must be?

It is often made even worse by well-meaning caregivers who insist that the person:

“Just ate dinner ten minutes ago, don’t you remember?”

“Just saw your daughter this morning, don’t you remember?”

“Just went outside for a walk, don’t you remember?”

The problem is, of course, that people with Alzheimer’s don’t remember these episodes that just happened. That magic wand wipes the slate clean again, and again, and again.

To make our lives and the lives of people living with Alzheimer’s a bit easier, we recommend that you lose the word “remember.” This is not an easy thing to do. In the course of a conversation, it is very natural to ask each other if we remember a person or event. But, for the person living with Alzheimer’s, asking them to remember is like asking them to jump up and fly around the room.

Declarative memory also affects language, and that is why people living with Alzheimer’s often struggle to remember names of people or names of common objects…
We all do a little of this ourselves in our daily lives. We’ve all had the experience where a word is right on the tip of our tongue but we cannot find it…. But, for the person living with Alzheimer’s, the constant struggle for words can be exhausting and enraging.

Many times when we are working in a nursing home or an adult day center, we will hear family members or friends pleading with their loved one who has Alzheimer’s, “You remember, Mom. They lived next door to us for forty years! You have to remember them. She was your best friend!”

Because of the impaired declarative memory, people with Alzheimer’s are often not able to remember names or faces of people they have known most of their lives. Trying to convince them otherwise is not going to help. We have to understand what they are dealing with; there are parts of their memory that are simply gone.

….To keep the ones we love in our life, it is important to understand that occasional fleeting moments of recognition or remembrance are causes for celebration, not despair. Rather than constantly mourning the loss of the person we knew and loved, we must learn to appreciate these brief encounters, these moments of connection.

We must learn to see them as little gifts that flash brightly and leave just as suddenly as they come. If we can learn to enjoy this flash of connection, these little moments, we can have the people we love in our lives again, not, of course, as we used to have them in our lives, but still with us, one brief moment at a time. These moments of recognition, of connection, are like little jewels that are strung on the necklace of time.”

Written By Karen Brenner – September 14, 2011

Karen Brenner has worked in the field of education for 30 years as a teacher and administrator. She co-founded Montessori schools in the Chicago area, one of which specializes in the education of children who are deaf or communication disordered. She is co-founder with her husband Tom of the consulting and educational company, Brenner Pathways. Tom Brenner holds an MA in Gerontology and has been working as a trainer, writer and consultant in the field of aging for many years. Together, they employ the Montessori Method of sensorial learning with elderly group home care of dementia and Alzheimers residents.

www.brennerpathways.org

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