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A Spanish project with music against Alzheimer's
26 March 2018

      Last weekend I saw a story related to elderly people and I automatically knew that I wished to share this news with you. I know that other times I have talked about elderly people and specifically about Alzheimer's  --as it is the case with this news--; but I like to talk about elderly people again, because they inspire me with tenderness, tranquility --I need it, because I have many things to do each day and I lack time--  and goodness --something that makes me think well of them always--.

      To illustrate this news, I would like to put here the link of a Spanish song; but I think I do not have permission to do it.

      Why would I like to put on a song? ..., because this song (“Penélope”, by the Spanish singer, Juan Manuel Serrat) is one of the favorite songs of a lady, Encarnación, who is being treated with music therapy. It is curious that she recognises the melody, just by hearing the first chords but, despite being able to sing each verse without making a mistake, she does not remember where she lives, in what year she was born or the name of her mother, and faces that were once familiar and close to her, now they are strangers. Encarnación is 79 years old and she has had Alzheimer's for three years. Maybe you can look for that song on the Internet.

      There are numerous neuroscientific researches, that reveal the relationship, which borders on the magic, between music and Alzheimer's. The melodies and lyrics of the songs clearly slow down the loss of memory and improve the language.

      The latest study, presented the last week, has been conducted by the association “Alzheimer Leon” and concludes that patients, in the most advanced stages, are those who offer a more obvious and powerful emotional response to music, with an effect that is more than beneficial for their mood and well-being.

      The manager of the “Alzheimer León” centre, Flor de Juan, explains the following: "We developed a musical reminiscence therapy, using photographs and other biographical elements, to bring the favorite singers to the present; in one group, we listened to music and, in the other one, without it, through bracelets associated with electrodes, we checked the brain response to the musical stimuli, surprising and very striking in cases of advanced Alzheimer's".

The Researcher Javier de Felipe, the Manager Flor de Juan and the responsible of Cooperacion Patricia Alvarez

      'Dos gardenias', by Antonio Machín, and 'Mi carro', by Manolo Escobar, were some of the themes chosen by the relatives of fifty patients with mild, moderate and severe illnesses, who participated in the study, as references of their musical memory. They are some songs from  their youth.

      The effect on the brain is immediate. When they hear the music, they quickly awaken from the absorption that invades them in many cases, react, cry, laugh, concentrate and fix their lost gaze. "It is as if they were once again in the world", says De Juan.

      With musical listening, positive automatic responses are developed at two levels: cognitive and emotional. These are effects that occur even in people with almost total amnesia, severe aphasia (inability to communicate) and without mobility.

      "Patients, who do not speak anything and who no longer attend to stimuli, can sing a whole song", says the person responsible for Alzheimer León, adding that it is not something sporadic, but common in patients with advanced stages.

      Of course, the reaction only occurs with songs recognised by them, those that are part of the soundtrack of their lives.

      Magdalena Galindo (clinical psychologist in an specialised day care, in Badajozagrees on the “absolute power" of music, in people with dementia. She recalls the case of Luisa, a patient in severe phase and with high silence, capable of singing ´El clavel' (´The carnation') by Rocío Jurado, from start to finish

Magdalena Galindo

      "It was impressive. When she stopped singing, she just stopped talking", she says, to emphasise that music reinforces their self-esteem, because "only with it , they are they able to remember happy stages of their lives".

      It also helps them to focus, to concentrate, in such a way that music is also used as a preliminary phase to develop other treatments and activities, as says Kruz Rodríguez, occupational therapist of a health care centre of Alzheimer's, in Madrid.

      "When the group is revolutionised or dispersed, I play music and immediately they calm down, listen to me and focus listening. Its power is total", he says.

      Rodríguez has used classic therapies, in his therapies, themes that everyone remembers, sung as nannies, to relax them; but also other types of melodies, that stimulate them, for example, to draw or perform other cognitive or physical activities. They are very useful, he says, old commercials with recognisable music: "It transports them to their past".

      One of the first questions to family members and the patients themselves, to face their individualised treatment, is: “What are your favorite songs?”.

      Each patient, with dementia, is a world and the evolutions are very diverse, derived from very different and complex factors, but there are common patterns. In relation to the senses, the first thing they lose is smell and the last, almost always, is the ear.

      Although it may seem like magic, that someone sings but does not speak, it has a strong scientific basis. The last areas that are eliminated, in a brain devastated by the disease, are two: the ones in charge of the musical memory and those that allow to feel emotions.

      The music is recorded in different areas from the rest of the memories and, while all those areas are filled with darkness, which translates into forgetfulness and cognitive deterioration, the musical storage area endures vivid with the passage of time.

      Pepe Olmedo, health psychologist and musician, is promoter of the initiative 'Music for awakening', which has trained 40 centres and 600 professionals, throughout Spain, in the application of melodies to the well-being of the sick.

      Pepe studied in the University of Granada (South eastern Spain) and he started working as a volunteer, at the "Cáxar de la Vega" senior centre, with the help of workers, residents and relatives. Now he is part of a group of 4 members (Aaron Rodriguez, Mar Olmedo, Eloisa Araujo and him). They are trying to share their philosophy with many people, many centres and institutions. They have come to many places in Spain: Asturias, Zaragoza, Madrid, Granada, Cádiz, Tenerife, Barcelona, Basque Country, Seville, Malaga ..., as well as abroad (San José, Costa Rica).

Pepe Olmedo with a patient

      Pepe and his colleagues have not found any patients, who do not react to a greater or lesser extent before the music.

      The improvement of the patients is such that even, in some occasions, the pharmacological treatments are reduced.

      His project focuses especially on those with more severe behavioral disorders: aggressiveness, constant irritability, severe agitation, sleep disorders, ambulation without direction and paranoia. The cases that have most impacted him are those of those with "coma-like" states, who "open their eyes when they hear their songs".

      By the way of that, I can tell you that, last Thursday, I saw on TV the case of a footballer (Francesc Peralta), from the Mequinenza (in Aragón, Northeast Spain), who suffered a blow to the head, playing a match, on January 21, and he has been in a coma, until a few days ago; and Francesc has left the coma thanks to his family, who began to sing the Anthem of Seville  --which Francesc loves--, by the Spanish singer, El Arrebato. Francesc regained consciousness and his girlfriend put the Anthem for him; then Francesc sang it whole.

Francesc Peralta with a reporter

      Like Francesc Peralta, Concha (a lady who was in an advanced stage of Alzheimer's) woke up thanks to her favorite music. While the music was playing, she tried to sing, was excited, laughed and asked.

      "At the end of her life, a woman adjusted her breathing with music and relaxed, she died with her song", says this Psychologist (Pepe Olmedo), who, like all the professionals interviewed, agrees that "music is as effective as kisses or hugs".

      "Music allows access to the past, it is like a key that opens that door and lets them remember in some way", says Eva Muñoz, music therapist, psychologist and family therapist at the Alzheimer Spain Foundation, which recommends caregivers and family members to use music as a tool, but also alerts on wrong or excessive use.

Pepe Olmedo with Concha​​​​​​​

     

Eva Muñoz​​​​​​​

      "It is not about playing music all the time and now. Sometimes it is not good to overstimulate. You have to know the moments, study each patient, be attentive to reactions, because they can overwhelm them and lead them to traumatic moments", she explains; and she adds that "well used" there is nothing so powerful to communicate with serious ill.

      She develops joint therapies with the patient, together with its partners and relatives, to express, through music, feelings that, otherwise, it is not capable of. In this way, the caregiver is also helped.

      The "musical recipe" can be, therefore, as effective as the pharmacological one, although not substitutable, this music therapist makes clear.

      She points out that, by way of music and its section in the brain, which remains "almost intact" of dementia, can be opened, and it is already being done, research ways to try to know more about why the disease and, above all, the possibilities for improvement and slowing down its progress.

      All experts agree that Alzheimer's progresses "always" in a "fierce" way and that "it is impossible to put a dam", but the musical barrier is "strong" and, above all, very "effective".

      One of the most revealing cases, about the binomial music and dementia, comes from the hand of Maurice Ravel, one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He suffered from Pick's disease (a type of dementia with multiple similarities to Alzheimer's).

Maurice Ravel

      With a state already advanced, he heard a piece of music that caught his attention and exclaimed: "How ingenious! It is like a gigantic crescendo. Who will have made it?". The ingenious piece was none other than his famous 'Bolero' from 1928.

       Like so many sick people, he got emotional with the music, but was unable to remember that each note had come from his own head.

      Well, all these stories seem incredible to me; but I do not doubt that they are true, because I love music, I can not live without it and that is why it is no surprise for me its power in people who lose their lives, for one reason or another one.

      Until my next post, kind regards,

Luis.

Sponsored by Costaluz Lawyers.

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Medinaceli: An important name in the History of Spain
15 March 2018

      Two weeks ago, a program of National Radio of Spain was made from the village of Medinaceli (in the province of Soria, northwest Spain), and this made me think about the possible relationship between this village and the "Cristo de Medinaceli" (Christ of Medinaceli). I have investigated it --because I was very curious-- and now I am going to tell you what I have found.

      Talking about the village, I can tell you that Medinaceli is one of the most beautiful villages in Spain. If you have the opportunity to visit it, I can tell you that it is one hour from Madrid, in the direction of Zaragoza.

Deviation of the motorway towards the new area of Medinaceli –where the most of the people live-- and above the old zone.       

      If you look up to the old area, you will see, on your right, the famous Roman Arch  --which is the only one with 3 arches in Spain. Dated in the 1st Century, the central arch would be accessible for carriages and the sides for pedestrians. It was declared a National Monument since 1923--. This arch indicated the limit between Caesaraugusta (Zaragoza) and Clunia. This also marked the entrance to the villa.

       

The old area        

The Roman Arch a little bit more close up

The Arch​​​​​​​

Landscape in front of Medinaceli through its Arch

      And if you look up to your left, you can see the Castle --which was owned by the Dukes of Medinaceli, before moving to the Ducal Palace--.

The Castle​​​​​​​

      If you go to the middle of the old village, you can find the Main Square with the Ducal Palace.

The Ducal Palace​​​​​​​

      Behind the Main Square, you can also see the tower of the Church-Collegiate Church of “Santa María”. The Dukes of Medinaceli asked them to build this Church. Inside there is a replica of the Christ of Medinaceli --the original is in Madrid--; there is a Christ with artistic value and you can also see the Museum of Sacred Art.       

The Collegiate Church

      But inside the Square, you can see the (La) Alhondiga --which was formerly used as a warehouse and trading center--.

The Alhondiga​​​​​​​

The portico of La Alhondiga​​​​​​​

      If you want to eat or leave your luggage  --to spend a night in Medinaceli--, you can choose among the Hotel-Restaurant "Duque" and the Hotel-Restaurant "La Cerámica".

“Duque”​​​​​​​

“La Cerámica”​​​​​​​

      These are some streets and the tower of the Collegiate-church:

      Now I know that the name "Christ of Medinaceli" comes from the fact that this statue is in the Basilica of Our Father Jesus of Medinaceli, in Madrid, --which is on land donated by the Dukes of Medinaceli--.

The Basilica​​​​​​​

      The story of this carving is very curious: It was taken by the Capuchin friars to La Mamora, taken by Spain in 1614, to receive worship by the soldiers. In the year 1681, in the month of April, the city fell, and the statue with it, in the hands of the Sultan Muley Ismail, who decided to send it to the city of Mekinez, as proof of victory. In Mekinez, it was dragged and thrown around the streets, so that people could mock it. A Trinitarian father, seeing what was happening, decided to speak with the king to recover the statue, offering the father as much gold as the statue would weigh. When it was going to be heavy, it greatly reduced his weight miraculously to the king's anger. The purchase of the statue was finally made by the Trinitarian Fathers, proof of this is the scapular with the trinitarian cross (red and blue), that the statue carries. This scapular was the "safe-conduct" to let the statue go to Christian lands and it meant that the Trinitarians had paid for it.

Christ of Medinaceli​​​​​​​

Christ with the Trinitarian scapular​​​​​​​

      The statue was taken to Madrid, in the middle of the year 1682, where it is received with great devotion. Upon arrival, a large procession is organized. The statue begins to be known as Jesus of the Rescue.

      In 1710, the Congregation of Slaves of Jesus Nazarene is constituted. From 1819 the king figures as protector of Slavery. The statue of Jesus Nazarene began to be known as Medinaceli thanks to the chapel, in which it was staying, was on land provided by the Duke of Medinaceli –as I told you before--. In 1928, the Enslavement of Jesus Nazareno was elevated to Archicofradía Primary, with the power of grouping to as many associations of the same name and title, erected in national territory, so they request it, reaching to have 42 Archicofradías –an Archicofradia is a Brotherhood more ancient or with greater privileges than others of the same city-- , added in Spain, at the present time.

      The statue was moved to various places, within Spain, during the Spanish Civil War (1936 - 1939), to protect it from the bombings of Madrid and finally left to Switzerland, in 1937, to participate in an exhibition of art works of the League of Nations. It returned, in 1939. In 1945, Francisco Palma Burgos made a superb processional Throne for the Nazarene. The Nazarene statue was part of the Way of the Cross, that took place, on August 19, 2011, on the occasion of the World Youth Days, presided by Pope Benedict XVI, in Madrid.

The processional Throne

      The statue was made in Sevillian workshops, in the seventeenth century, attributed to the circle of the imaginary Juan de Mesa. It is full size to dress, consisting simply of a cloth of purity. It has a hair carved, although it is not shown to be covered by the natural hair that is put. It consists of a large trousseau composed of more than thirty robes, among which stand out one from 1846, given by the King Francisco de Asís, and another, from 1883, a gift from the Duchess of Medinaceli. For great occasions, like the first Friday of March or the procession, Jesus wears a solid gold crown, weighing half a kilo, with embedded gemstones, a gift from Madrid's jewelers, in the 1950s.​​​​​​​

      On the left side, you can see the best robe, that Jesus of Medinaceli has.

The best robe on left side​​​​​​​

      Our Father Jesus of Medinaceli is to worship in the church of the Capuchin RR of Jesus Street, in Madrid. He presides over the temple from his Alcove. Every Friday of the year Our Father Jesus Nazarene is visited by thousands of devotees. On the first Friday of March of each year his multitudinous “besapiés” (it should be something like “to kissfeet”) takes place, to which many devotees go.

Besapiés

      Traditionally a member of the Spanish Royal Family attends to pray before the statue. This year –almost two weeks ago--, our King, Felipe VI, visited the temple.

      Note: I am sorry, but I could not change the size of the picture.

      The statue of Jesus of Medinaceli arouses much devotion in many places of Spain, finding numerous copies of the statue and brotherhoods, that pay him veneration. Also abroad, the Nazarene of Madrid receives fervent devotion, the most striking being that of the Brotherhood of Jesus de Medinaceli and the Esperanza Macarena of Miami, United States.

      Our Father Jesus Nazarene is taken out, in procession, on Good Friday –next March 29-- in the afternoon, by the Primary Archiconfradia of the Real and Illustrious Slavery of Our Father Jesus Nazarene, through several streets of Madrid.

The processional Throne on Alcalá street

      Well, I hope that you will like this article  --as you may have liked other articles of mine-- and I want to thank all of my readers, for your interest, for your trust in me, for valuing my effort  --when I collect many data and I translate them into English--, for your understanding      --because my English is not perfect--. And I thank you for giving me the opportunity to enjoy looking for information about the culture of my country  --of which I am proud-- and share it with all of you, who are interested in knowing it. Every day I try to open to you the doors of this country, which has so much variety and richness, in Gastronomy, in Art, in History, in Science.

       I do this work, with a great enthusiasm but from my humility, so that your “eye on Spain” is greater.

       Until my next post, kind regards,

Luis.

Sponsored by Costaluz Lawyers.

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A Spanish stew for the cold winter
05 March 2018

      Today I would like to show you a recipe by the great Spanish chef, Karlos Arguiñano, that I have not tasted but I think it looks good: "Stew meat with beans and potatoes".

      These are the Ingredients, for 4 people: 600 grams of shank (hock). 100 grams of small dry beans. 1 onion. 3 leeks. 1 green pepper. 2 carrots. 3 garlic cloves. 2 potatoes. 2 tablespoons of flour. 1 glass of red wine. Extra virgin olive oil. Salt. Pepper in grain. 1 branch of rosemary.

      To prepare this recipe, you have to follow these steps: first you have to put the beans in soaking, with enough water, in a bowl, the night before; and keep the bowl.

      Then you have to add salt and pepper to the chunks of meat, pass them through flour and fry them in a pan with oil. Then drain the pieces on a plate, lined with absorbent paper; reserve it.

      Now, chop the garlic, the onion, the leeks, the green pepper and the carrots and poach with a little stream of oil, in the pot. Season. When everything is well poached, pour the wine, boil it and crush it. Add the meat, the beans with their water, the rosemary branch and between 15 and 20 grams of pepper.

      Put the lid on the pot and cook it for 15 minutes, starting when the steam starts to come out.

      Then peel the potatoes, cut them into large and friable dice, in a pan, with enough oil. Drain, on a plate lined with absorbent paper, to remove excess oil. Serve the potatoes with the stew of meat and beans. Garnish the dish with the rosemary branch.

      And this must be the result:

      Well, I hope that you will like this recipe and hope that you can try to cook it. If you do it, please tell me it.

      Until my next post, kind regards,

Luis.

Sponsored by Costaluz Lawyers.

Please click below:

 



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