St. Camillus offers program for people affected by memory loss

Brain health is vital to living a quality life, no matter the age. St. Camillus Health and Rehabilitation Center offers two adult programs that help improve memory skills and stave off dementia. Last week, the Eagle Bulletin focused on the Memory Academy, designed for cognitively healthy adults. This week's issue addresses the Serper program, which is geared toward people with mild cognitive impairment, regardless of the cause.

Carol Clancy was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease a year and a half ago.

Soon after, a friend coaxed her into attending a unique program available only through St. Camillus in this area. Clancy, a retired Syracuse schoolteacher, is the ideal candidate.

"I know I have Alzheimer's," she said. "I've accepted that, and I'm trying to do what I can to help myself."

That's the kind of attitude that Alzheimer's Services Coordinator Ellen Somers says best suits the program: someone who faces challenges head-on.

The Serper Method consists of workbook-based activities that engage the parts of the brain that deal with memory. It was founded by Lynn Serper, who was in her 40s when she suffered a debilitating stroke. She was unable to speak, write or care for herself, but was determined to regain these functions. Through intensive cognitive rehabilitation, Serper made a dramatic recovery over the course of several years.

Serper had been a special education teacher. She reworked the methods and exercises she had used with her students to address her own disabilities. When she saw how much these activities helped her in her recovery, she began to work with other older adults who had experienced cognitive impairment.

The program is not a cure for dementia, but can delay and reduce the severity of cognitive decline. Participants read, write, problem-solve, practice arithmetic and hold discussions on topics such as biographies, geography and information on how the brain works. Research has shown that after six months some people see significant improvement in areas including sustained attention, visual-spatial learning, short-term memory and mental flexibility.

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