Mike Cooke is a volunteer for the weekly Connections program at Memory Matters, and he wrote the following about a typical day in the program.

I was fascinated with his insights. I have been facilitating the Connections program for 18 months, and although I enjoy it very much, Mike’s words helped re-charge me. Funny how sometimes we lose sight of the beauty of what we do until someone almost redefines it for us. Thank you, Mike. He writes:

Connections is a weekly program designed for those diagnosed in the early stages of dementia or who have mild cognitive impairment.

The families we greet at 10 a.m. on Thursdays appear energized and excited to be joining, meeting and contributing. Both caregivers and participants alike are ready to grasp the opportunity. The latter are raring to go. Held in a comfortable, non-threatening social setting, Connections is popular.

Last Thursday was a great example of an action-packed program including cognitive stimulation, physical exercise to music, discussion on current domestic and international news (it was the Queen of England’s 90th birthday), a look at some famous April poetry, a little live music (and a chance to join in the singing!), a historical trivia quiz, discussion and lunch.

We also spent a few minutes looking at and discussing the live web cam of the Washington, D.C. eagles and their hatchlings on our big cinema screen.

The topic of the day, led by Karen, on the subject of the left and right side of the brain, was illuminating. Everyone, including this writer, was eager to complete a questionnaire and debate the results as to whether their individual traits indicated whether overall they were more left sided (e.g. mathematical and detailed) or right sided (e.g. creative in an artistic or musical way). The ensuing discussion was stimulating and fascinating for all concerned.

Later we attempted a thought-provoking exercise where we considered how difficult it would be to undertake everyday actions with our non-dominant hand. This involved a challenge to write an amusing paragraph on our current political season, but using the non-dominant hand. Phew!

Finally, Tom, who is one of our leading intellectual participants, proved that he was more centered than the left-right brain survey indicated by performing an impromptu duet of four songs with this volunteer.

We both, and the other participants who formed the “choir,” enjoyed the musical therapy. Tom has a really great harmonizing voice, and it was a pleasure to provide the opportunity to let him share it with friends.

This was a typically challenging day, employing cognitive stimulation interspersed with therapeutic interludes of exercise and music, visibly contributing to a sense of accomplishment and wellbeing.

On May 24, from 4 to 6 p.m., Memory Matters will host a free open house so our neighbors can come see how we can help improve the lives of those with dementia and their caregivers. For more information, call 843-842-6688.

Karen Doughtie is assistant director of Memory Matters, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head. karen@memory-matters.org