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Written by: Jayne Mund

 

In an effort to raise awareness, reduce the stigma of Alzheimer’s disease, educate our community and assist families who have been touched by Alzheimer’s disease, this month’s article will touch on 10 points that people with memory loss want their care partners, family and friends to know. These points were developed by Laurie Scherrer, who was diagnosed at age 55 with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Here are the top 10 points that she shares with care partners, friends, family, neighbors, the community and anyone interacting with memory loss to know:

Although we may not always tell you or act it – we still love you and we do appreciate all you do. We just don’t always know how to tell you.

Maintain as much of a routine as possible (especially in the morning and evening). Make a list of routine tasks in the order they are done (brush teeth, get washed, get dressed, etc.) and check them off as completed. A routine can help to establish an automatic reaction and reduces some of the “think work” required during periods of confusion.

Identify things that cause agitation. Many times, something triggers dementia symptoms causing the person with dementia to “act out” or get confused. It is important to take time to observe what the surroundings and events were prior to the agitation and try to identify what may have caused it. For example: Was there a lot of noise? Did someone have an argument? Were their surroundings changed?

Embrace and encourage our abilities –rather than focusing on our inabilities. Like a set of lights on a Christmas tree, parts of our brain flicker on and off. There are moments of lucidity and moments of confusion. Tasks may be easy one day and difficult the next. Build on the strengths we can accomplish in the moment.

Engage us in activities. The more we sit idle, the more we fall into our shell. As with anyone, our brains need to be stimulated and challenged. In advance stages, this may be as simple as sorting buttons into the same color. Include laughter and fun in everyday.

Challenge us to stay as independent as possible. The more you do for us, the more you enable our dependence. There will be moments when we can’t do things for ourselves, but with some guidance, often, we can figure it out. The clothes may not be folded right, but praise the effort.

Maintain social activity as much as possible. This is important for care partners, as well as for the person living with dementia. Video chats, forums and mentor programs are wonderful ways to learn best practices for dealing with dementia symptoms. There are a variety of resources for social engagement available online, as well as through organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association.

Interact the same as you did prior to the diagnosis. Although dementia may rob many of our abilities and memories, it does not take away feelings or intelligence. Even when a person is “living” in their past they are still living as an adult – not as a child – and should be treated as such.

Communicate visually as well as audibly and slow down your speech just a tad. Look at the person when speaking and encourage them to look at you. Dementia slows processing time, being able to see and hear helps clarify the communication. It can take up to 20 seconds for someone with memory loss to process what was just said. Using video chats rather than the telephone, writing down tasks, and even asking restaurants for a written list of specials are all ways to increase visual communication.

Understand the dementia does not make a person hearing impaired; in some cases their hearing becomes stronger. Speak with a person directly rather that speaking about them. If you need to have a conversation about the person, do so when you are well out of hearing range.

- Source: Alzheimer’s Foundation of America

For more information about these and other local resources and guidance in caring for someone with dementia contact Jayne Mund, Caregiver Consultant at 763-689-8811. For more information about the CambridgeACT on Alzheimer’s call Julie Tooker at 763-691-6192. Your input and assistance is valuable. Let’s ACT together to create and sustain a dementia friendly community. There is Hope. There is Help.

• Every Minute Counts Showing and Panel Discussion will be held from 4-6 p.m. Thursday, May 3, at the Cambridge-Isanti High School Performing Arts Center. Refreshments and local resource vendor booths. Event supported by a dementia grant for the MN Board on Aging.

• CambridgeACT Memory Café meets the second Thursday of each month from 9:30-10:30 a.m. on April 12, May 10 and June 14 at the SAC’s Enrichment Center, 140 Buchanan St. N. Suite 164, Cambridge. Registration-Questions: Contact Angie Detert at 320-364-1115 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to sign up and/or for more information.

• Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group meets the third Tuesday of the month from 10-11:30 a.m. at the new GracePointe Crossing Town Center, 1545 River Hills Parkway, Cambridge. Contact Molly Carlson for more information at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 763-691-6172.

• A free Dementia Friends class is being offered from 2-3:30 p.m. April 10; 2:30-4 p.m. May 8; 10:30 a.m. to noon June 20; and 10:30 a.m. to noon Aug. 8 The class will be offered through Community Education at the Adult Enrichment Center, 540 Fifth Ave. NW, Cambridge. Contact Community Education to sign up at 763-689-6189.

• Alzheimer’s Association, Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter, www.alz.org/mnnd, 800-272-3900, 24-hour helpline.


Cambridge ACT Action Team along with Family Pathways' Caregiver Consultant, Jayne Mund