MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — All this month, activists are asking us to focus on a brain disease that can’t be prevented, cured or slowed.
June marks Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. WCCO is documenting the fight a retired doctor is in against the disease.
Paul Quinn is sharing his story with the hope it helps others with dementia open up. In this report we get a look at how a class is changing the conversation while helping caregivers better communicate with a growing population.
Inside a small room in St. Paul, there are lessons and laughter.
“Sometimes just give it up, let it rest and just come back to it later,” the instructor said.
There are candid conversations about a life-changing diagnosis five couples are learning to better live with. Marsha Berry is leading today’s group for the Alzheimer’s Association.
“Just to know that somebody else is out there going through the same things is very important for people,” Berry said.
For two hours over the course of 10 weeks, Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers meet at Memory Club.
“What we’re talking about today is communication,” Berry told the class.
This week, caregivers are taught to make simple changes when talking to someone with memory trouble.
“If your communication is lengthy, you’re holding onto that first part and then it just trails off. Does that sound pretty familiar to people?” she asked the group.
Instead, they’re told to end a sentence with the most crucial detail, like a name or place.
“The most important thing to remember if it can come last it will often stick a little longer,” Barry suggested.
The class is designed for people like Paul Quinn, in the earliest detectable stage of the disease.
“My memory is a problem,” Quinn said. “I don’t think my memory is a danger to society at this point or to myself but I forget things.”
The 76-year-old was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment two years ago. His short-term memory is getting worse, but he’s still able to function in everyday life. That’s the message the Alzheimer’s Association wants to share at this stage — that patients are still themselves.
“The people we saw this morning were very aware of where they were, who they were, what was important to them,” Berry said.
Memory club attendees say they’re finding new power in this fight — from each other and from sharing their stories.
“What’s the most important part of the body? The heart? The liver? The kidneys?” Quinn asked. “It’s the brain. It’s the most difficult to talk about.”
The Memory Club classes are offered in partnership by the Alzheimer’s Association and the Wilder Foundation.
Sunday, June 21 marks the summer solstice and the longest day of the year. The Alzheimer’s Association will honor the endurance of those with the disease with a day full of activities.