More than 94,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s disease in Minnesota — and more than 254,000 of their family members and friends are providing care.
Learning that you or a loved one has dementia can be scary, but you’re not alone.
Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia opens the door to gaining understanding about the illness and what you’ve already been noticing and experiencing. Sometimes receiving the actual diagnosis makes it easier to initiate important conversations about your values, hopes and plans as you and your circle of support live with dementia.
Even though you may feel isolated and worried, there are services that can help and offer care and support.
Finding a community
Clubs through Navigating Dementia (formerly known as Memory Clubs) can be a great first step. It all starts with a 10-week Navigating Dementia series designed to meet the needs of the person with a diagnosis as well as a family member or friend.
The goals of the series are to provide participants with a safe environment to learn more; to create a place for sharing stories with others in similar situations; and to answer participants’ questions with help from facilitators and guest speakers.
Breaking it down
Each session is two hours long, split into two halves. The first hour is devoted to weekly topics that provide education and address the entire group, including understanding memory loss; partnering with your doctor; telling others about the diagnosis; caring for your most important relationships; daily strategies for living with memory loss; coping with changes; communicating effectively; making decisions on legal and financial issues; maintaining independence; understanding and participating in research; and staying connected.
The second hour of each session is spent in private peer groups — one for the people living with dementia and one for their care partners. This is an opportunity to discuss the education topic of the week, learn from others, share stories and realize you’re not alone.
The Alzheimer’s Association developed Navigating Dementia clubs through an evidence-informed model based on proven positive outcomes for participants.
An interview is required before the series begins to assure the series format will work well for everyone attending.
Groups are intentionally kept small and with the same people present each of the 10 weeks. Small groups allow everyone the opportunity to share their experiences, get to know each other and form friendships. Many families report that meeting others in the same situation can be helpful in moving forward after a diagnosis.
FIND A CLUB
To see if a Navigating Dementia program is your area, contact the Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter at 800-272-3900. In the Twin Cities, you can also go to the Metropolitan Caregiver Services Collabor-ative calendar of events at caregivercollaborative.org. The following agencies host Navigating Dementia clubs in the Twin Cities:
• FamilyMeans / Stillwater, 651-789-4004: Next series starts Feb. 21
• Augustana Care / Minneapolis, 952-935-8143: Next series starts March 21
• Park Nicollet Clinic / St. Louis Park, 952-993-6506
• Wilder Community Center for Aging / St. Paul, 651-280-2273
Jenny West works at Family Means in Caregiving & Aging Services. FamilyMeans is an active member of the Metropolitan Caregiver Service Collaborative.