Posts Tagged ‘Monica Heltemes’

Libraries Offer Memory Minders: A Kit for Caregivers!

Now available at

Ramsey County Library in Roseville and Shoreview:

Memory Minders: A Kit for Caregivers!


 Memory Minders are specially created for caregivers

caring for people experiencing memory loss

MMkits_2The materials in these kits are specifically selected to spark memories, create conversation and provide positive and engaging interactions between people with Alzheimer’s and Dementia and their care partners. The kits are divided into high, middle and low activity levels.

Each Memory Minder kit is unique and features an interactive activity for use with those with memory loss (such as a puzzle, bingo, games or conversation cards), a book with colorful illustrations created for individuals with memory loss, a cd with music to soothe and spark memory, and A Caregiver’s Guide to Dementia by Laura Gitlin, which explores the use of activities and other techniques to prevent, reduce and otherwise manage the behavioral symptoms of dementia.


The Memory Minder Kits are available at the Ramsey County Library in Roseville and Shoreview, and be checked out for three weeks. The kits are renewable and requestable via the library’s catalog at www.rclreads.org.

These kits were created out of a unique partnership between:

Ramsey County Library, Roseville Alzheimer’s & Demential Community Action Team, and sponsorships by Cherrywood Pointe, Lyngblomsten, Sunrise Senior Living, New Perspectives Senior Living, and the Friends of Ramsey County Library.


Ramsey County Library – Shoreview

4560 Victoria St. N.

Shoreview, MN 55126



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   Today we had a great show with two wonderful guests full on site and support for those dealing with dementia.  Both I’m     sure we will be having back on the show!

Monica Heltemes an Occupational Therapist and Founder of Mind Start.   Mind Start has produced a line of dementia care products designed to stimulate the mind and use abilities of the person that still remain. Her passion is bringing cognitive stimulation, connections, and joy to people with dementia and their caregivers.  Monica gave us great tips and ideas of how and why to break down tasks to allow the person with dementia to take part and feel valued and     included.


Dr. Gordon Atherley is host, founder, and owner of Family Caregivers Unite! The Internet radio talk show that empowers family caregivers, by amplifying their voice, spreading their vision, and publicizing their value.  We discussed types of abuse and how subtle they can be and yet sometimes difficult to control.  Dr Atherley also had some great tips for working with your health professionals which can help in diagnosis and treatment.

Family Caregivers Unite!

To listen to the show

All episodes are recorded and archived for your convenience.

As mentioned on the show today, here is the information for

New Clinical Trial for Alzheimer’s disease.

A New Era in  Alzheimer’s – Time for Tau is Now

Click here to get more information

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Article by Monica Heltemes, Occupational Therapist

Caregivers often struggle to come up with appropriate activities for the person with Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia. Dementia causes memory loss, decreased problem solving, concrete- thinking, and less desire to do activities.  All can lead to the person becoming inactive.  Often the desire to do activities is less because the person does not want to risk being frustrated or embarrassed when he tries to do something.  But with some guidance from the caregiver, the person can be successful in doing things.
Some keys to keep in mind include: current cognitive ability, past interests, and current routines. As cognitive  abilities start to change, the person with Alzheimer’s may need simpler games or tasks to do.As they continue to progress, matching and sorting tasks are appropriate.  At the later stages, the person is only able to attune to the senses. So ideas of activities at the different stages includes:  a game of Old Maid; sorting socks or large buttons; giving a hand massage.  Music, touch, and movement are responded to at all stages of the disease.

Using life history and past interests can help tap into long-term memories that last long into the disease process. Set up a secretary with “letters to fold” and envelopes “to stuff”. Note that you might have to set this up only with one of these steps at a time. Other examples are, stirring the batter for a former homemaker and providing postcards for an avid traveler.

Last, daily routine tasks can keep the person with dementia engaged. Build in things the person CAN still do, whether self-care tasks or household duties. Examples include:  putting on their clothes, once the caregiver has picked out what is appropriate for the day; setting the forks on the table for the meal, once the forks are set out and direction have been given; checking the mail when directed and supervised. Incorporating things the person can do into the daily routine builds structure and order for the person with dementia, as well as provides pride and joy in the things he or she can do.

“Doing things” is still possible for persons with dementia – with the help of caregivers. Look to the things around you, now and from the past, as sources of inspiration to find activities that can meet the current needs of the person with dementia that you care for.

Monica Heltemes, Occupational Therapist

MindStart – Activities for Persons with Memory Loss

Email Monica

Phone: 612-868-5831

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Occupational Therapist and Owner of MindStart–

Activities for Persons with Memory Loss

By Monica Heltemes

Minneapolis, MN, January 5, 2011 – “That’s enough of this” my occupational therapy client, MaryAnn,  tells me when we try to work on one of the 100 piece jigsaw puzzles that she has enjoyed doing for many years.  Her words do not tell me but her expressions and demeanor does – she is frustrated that she can no longer do the puzzle, due to the effects of her dementia, and would rather sit quietly in a chair than submit herself to activities that blatantly show how confused she is.

Inactivity for persons with dementia

Dementia impacts a person’s ability to engage in occupation or everyday activities, due to the symptoms, which include memory loss, difficulty planning and problem solving, and decreased initiative. They need to rely on others to create periods of engagement. Richard Taylor, PhD a psychologist diagnosed with dementia and author of Alzheimer’s from the Inside Out , says persons with dementia “cannot by themselves redefine a new sense of purpose for themselves…. They will need others to find/create activities of daily living that lead them to a sense of self-fulfillment or their sense of purpose…Persons withdraw prematurely because it is easier, safer, and they don’t know what else to do.”

Studies have shown nursing home residents with dementia spend 70-80% of their time with nothing to do.  “I’m dying of boredom” was the statement made by a gentleman living in an Alzheimer’s care unit to Colorado State University Head of Department of Occupational Therapy, Wendy Wood.  

According to research conducted by Wood and published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy in May 2009, the remaining cognitive, social, and emotional capabilities of persons with dementia living in Alzheimer’s units were rarely tapped into.  This promotes “excess disability” or disability beyond what is directly attributable to the disease itself. This could lead to a more rapid decline.

Activity-centered care

As concerns are raised about the use of certain medications to manage behaviors in persons with dementia, new approaches to care are being trialed.  Dementia activities such as music, dancing, art, and storytelling are all approaches that have been found effective in the care for persons with dementia.

The common element in all of them is engagement – or doing. Even routine tasks are beneficial for persons with dementia.  Having the person help with dressing, setting the table, getting the mail, or answering the door are all tasks that he can be set-up and directed to do, even if it is only parts of the task.

 Humans are occupational beings.  We each choose to do things each day that make us who we are and that give meaning to our lives.  Dementia disrupts this flow. For these people, it threatens their well-being and personhood.  Targeted care that incorporates daily engagement is key and has many benefits.

Benefits of activity engagement, per numerous research studies, include:  cognitive stimulation, improved sleep, better social connections, , reduced anxiety, increased quality of life and self-identity. Also, activity engagement decreases caregiver burden and may help to manage behaviors without medications.

 How to engage persons with dementia

In order to prevent excess disability and reap the benefits engaging in activity can afford, persons with dementia need caregivers to provide opportunities to tap into their abilities on a daily basis.  This can be a challenge for the caregiver – which may be a family member, home health aide or other facility staff.  The caregiver may not know how to go about it or may have limited time to do so.

So here are 3 key elements you need to engage persons with dementia.  Remember the “3 R’s” of education – Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic?  Let’s replace those with these 3 R’s – Routine, Reduce, and Reassurance.


Persons with dementia do best with routine.  To help bring some order to a confusing world of forgetfulness and disorientation, the person needs the same activities done in a typical order and timeline each day. What works best for you may not be what works best for him and her.  Usually, going with their flow will make the day easier for both of you.

Think of incorporating different types of activities into the typical day.  For instance, self-cares, such as dressing or bathing.  Even if the person needs help, let them do a few steps that they can, like wash their face after you get them started with the motion. Also something social, such as eating breakfast together, something physical, such as taking a walk, and something sensory, such as smelling the garden flowers or listening to music.  Also, try to incorporate activities based on the person’s past interests.


Persons with dementia have short-circuits in the way their brain works.  They need things to be reduced, so that they can work their way around the short-circuits: reduction in the number of steps of the task; reduction in the directions given for the task; and reduction in the level of abstractness of the task. The level of reductions that need to be made will vary, depending the extent of the deficits or short-circuits the person has.

Examples of how to reduce, include using multiple choice instead of open-ended questions, playing a game with only matching involved, and using short, simple sentences to direct the next step.


The person with dementia may at time be reluctant to participate when you ask them.  This may be due to fear of failure, as mentioned above.  A more reassuring way to ask him to do something is to ask for their help.  This often is more successful.

Again, offer reassurance throughout the activity and after – “You are doing great! Thanks for your help!” – gives the person pride in that moment, a feeling that can last long after the activity.

As any good occupational therapist would do, I did not leave MaryAnn to sit in her chair, unengaged.  I modified the activity to meet her needs.  MaryAnn could do puzzles with less pieces and less detail in the picture, which are available from MindStart-Activities for Persons with Memory Loss.  She once again was able to enjoy what makes her who she is.

Monica Heltemes is a practicing occupational therapist and Owner of MindStart.  MindStart designs and produces activity products specifically for persons with memory loss. They can be used in private homes, nursing homes, memory care units, and adult daycare programs. These adapted activities include User Guides and can be used by staff, family members, friends, and volunteers to help keep persons with dementia engaged.  Please visit us at www.mind-start.com.  Monica can be contacted at info@mind-start.com.

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