It happens to the best of us: aging. If we’re lucky, many of us will grow old and live long, productive lives.
But in a 2013 study by the Centers for Disease Control, one in eight adults older than 60 reported experiencing confusion or memory loss during a 12-month period.
Cognition issues caused by Alzheimer’s Disease, traumatic brain injuries and brain disorders can leave patients and their caregivers feeling confused, isolated and frustrated. That’s why one Glynn County nonprofit is aiming to help those affected by memory loss feel connected, cared for and supported.
Since 1994, Memory Matters — formerly Alzheimer’s of Glynn — has been a resource for people in the Golden Isles coping with progressive symptoms of memory loss.
“We are here to support individuals with adult-onset memory impairment, as well as their caregivers and family members,” said Penny Osborne, Memory Matters’ director of administration. “We serve Glynn, McIntosh and Camden counties, as well as Waycross.”
The nonprofit’s office on Sherwood Drive is a lively hub for support groups, social events, information and one-on-one consultations. Situated in a former residence, the office is cozy — complete with a kitchen, living room with large windows and sofas, and workspace.
“We want this house to be bustling,” said Kelly Trowbridge, president of Memory Matters’ board of directors. “We know the need is there. Worldwide, there are 50 million people living with a variety of brain illnesses that can affect memory, thinking, behavior and the ability to perform everyday activities.”
The center offers five support groups every month, and can work individually with families and caregivers to craft specific solutions to meet particular needs.
Memory Matters offers a variety of services and support. People can come for emotional support or the latest information about how to handle caring for a loved one. Or, they can attend group sessions where counselors teach coping skills and ways to make life easier on family members and aging people.
Coloring books, puzzles, games and a plethora of other activities are on hand for anyone who visits Memory Matters — and so are volunteers and staff ready to simply sit and listen.
“We know that some people with memory loss may feel isolated, but the more social interaction they have, the better,” Osborne said. “That’s why we have events and social activities.”
Recently, Memory Matters had a community open house and hosted the Golden Isles Strummers, a group of ukulele-playing volunteers who play cheery covers of classic rock and popular songs.
“It was a lot of fun,” Trowbridge said. “People had a great time, and we hope to do a lot more, because with an aging population, the need for memory loss services will only grow.”
The organization does have fun while they carry out their important mission, but what motivates its staff and volunteers is deep and personal.
Osborne became involved in advocating for memory- loss people after her grandmother experienced vascular dementia, a disorder caused by hardening blood vessels that constrict the flow of oxygen to the brain.
She knows how hard caring for a loved one with memory impairment can be, and that’s why she wants area residents who may be going through the same thing to know they are not alone.
“If you’re taking care of someone, you have to remember to take care of yourself, too,” she said. “If you don’t, you’ll wear yourself out.”
That’s why Memory Matters offers trainings, workshops and support groups for caregivers and family — all free of charge.
It’s also about making sure people know they aren’t alone. Memory Matters offers resources for all types of memory loss, screenings, referrals, social events and a speakers bureau to educate the public.
For Osborne and other staff and volunteers, the nonprofit is a labor of love.
“I enjoy this more than anything,” she said of helping families and people with memory loss. “You see how much of a difference you’re making.”