Keeping active - both physically and cognitively - is the goal behind ‘Minds in Motion’, a program run through the Wolf Creek Primary Care Network.
Originally developed through the Alzheimer Society, the program has been designed to help those affected by dementia and their families/caregivers.
The program combines physical activity and mental stimulation, said Kristi Lem, an exercise specialist with the Wolf Creek Primary Care Network.
Activities can run the gamut from a variety of games to taking part in activities that actually stimulate memories, like a ‘show and tell’ event where participants can share details of a special belonging.
“It might be an object that was special to them when they were younger, and then they will have an opportunity to talk about their experiences. So it’s quite social as well,” she said.
“It’s a great way for people to get mentally and physically active. They are also surrounded by people who are going through similar experiences whether that’s others living with dementia or their caregivers.”
A lingering sense of stigma can still be, at times, attached to dementia, so when that is the case, a sense of isolation can also be present, she said, adding that the Alzheimer Society has been working to broaden the reach of the program across communities.
To that end, a new session of Minds in Motion is set to start in Lacombe on Sept. 27 at Kozy Korner, running once a week from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Lem facilitates the fitness portion of the sessions.
As to what exercises she introduces, Lem said that it really depends on the group. “I try to do seating and standing exercises, with modifications.
“I also try and make it accessible for everybody,” she explained. There is also the use of weights as well to help bolster strength.
“We do have a variety of different equipment, and we try to relate it to things they’ve done already - like pretending to chop wood, for example. Or washing windows - so we relate some of the activities to things they have done in the past, and we make it fun and enjoyable for them through the fitness part of the class,” she said.
An emphasis on building physical fitness is important as it helps with maintaining good balance, good mobility and strength. It’s also good for care partners, too.
“A lot of times the care partners are so busy caring for their loved ones, that they don’t have the time to care for themselves,” she said of the activity portion of the meetings.
During the pandemic, sessions were held virtually (the local library helped out by lending iPads).
“I think a lot of participants enjoyed being able to join a group,” she said, referring to the long months of shut-down and restrictions on gatherings.
Meetings are now in-person.
“I think now that we are back in person, the participants have enjoyed seeing each other face-to-face, and they are able to connect a little bit more,” she said.
“A lot of them are also returning participants, so they’ve been able to build those relationships with one another,” she said.
“It’s fun to see the relationships and friendships grow. And also, as new people come in and join the group, it’s amazing to see how welcoming they are. You can see that it’s a really inclusive environment.
“I just really enjoy getting to know the participants and seeing them get to know each other as well,” she said, adding that there are several organizations that support Minds in Motion including the Alzheimer’s Society of AB and NWT, FCSS, Alberta Health Services, the City of Lacombe and local volunteers.
Anyone interested in coming onboard as a volunteer is encouraged to contact Lem by calling the Lacombe Walk-In Clinic at 403-782-1408 or emailing her at email@example.com.
“I think a huge benefit for those living with dementia, that I’ve heard from caregivers, is that their spirits are lifted after the class. They may not remember specifically what game we may have played, or what we did for the fitness part, but they always are in better moods after; they are happier and smiling during the classes and even afterwards,” she said.
“They are often feeling a lot better.”
For more about Minds in Motion, or to register, call 403-782-1408 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Minds in Motion program runs several times each year, and each session goes for six weeks.