Door County has the third highest percentage of adults aged 55 and older in the state of Wisconsin, and by 2015 it is to projected to have the highest. And since age is the number one risk factor for dementia, Door County has a need for quality dementia care.
Recognizing this reality, Ministry Door County Medical Center established the Ministry Memory Clinic, a comprehensive memory care department whose mission is to provide excellence in the early diagnosis and treatment of dementia. Any Door or Kewaunee resident can receive a free screening evaluation, often provided in the home environment, as well as more thorough diagnostics, therapeutic services, and connection to community resources.
Christy Wisniewski, outreach specialist at the Memory Clinic, has seen first hand how the work of the clinic impacts people’s lives. “Many patients learn that their dementia is caused by a treatable condition. If their dementia is caused by Alzheimer’s disease, for which there is not yet a cure, they become empowered with treatment and research options, wellness opportunities and greater future planning,” she says. “And with many active older people who want to stay in their homes, we’re meeting a need to help people do just that.” Since opening in 2011, the Memory Clinic has had approximately 300 referrals and served these patients through screenings, diagnosis and treatment, as well as ongoing monitoring and communication with the patients and their caregivers.
Wisniewski recently worked with a couple in which the husband, in his early 60s, had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s by his primary care provider, but given little information on how to proceed. The couple was feeling overwhelmed, and found Ministry’s Memory Clinic through an online search. “Their first question was ‘What can I do?’” says Wisniewski. She connected the couple to resources in the community, gave the man exercises and opportunities to improve his brain health, and shared local resources with his wife to help her deal with the stresses of caregiving. “It was very gratifying to see their gradual relief, as they learned that yes, there are many things to be done to improve the health of a patient with dementia.”
Deb Whitelaw-Gorski, director of Rehab services at Ministry, says the quality of the Memory Clinic team brings a high level of care to patients. “Our occupational therapists participate in the evaluation process,” she says, “which helps patients understand how a diagnosis affects their daily lives.” Dr. Paul Board, an internal medicine specialist with expertise in the diagnosis of dementia-related disorders, works with the team to understand the details of each individual patient’s diagnosis, which includes input from families and caregivers. “Our goal is to help patients leave the clinic with a greater understanding of their situation, and a plan and resources to help them move forward,” Whitelaw-Gorski adds.
In addition to the Memory Clinic that diagnoses and treats dementia, Ministry is sponsoring several new community programs that address the needs of patients with dementia and their families. Memory In Development (M.IN.D) is a brain enhancement program for people with early memory loss or early dementia diagnosis and their caregiver. This 6-week workshop will take place in Algoma June through July, and later in the year in Sturgeon Bay and Northern Door. M.IN.D. offers participants the opportunity “to do something about it” through cognitive exercise and physical exercise, and gives caregivers exposure to local support resources.
Starting in May, The Door County Memory Café will be offered once a month at the Senior Resource Center in Sturgeon Bay. A Memory Café is a social opportunity for people with memory related concerns or diagnosis, and their caregiver/friends/family, to gather socially in an environment without the stigma of their cognitive impairment. Each café has a theme, and entertainment or a presentation is included. Additionally, a health professional is available to speak with participants who want more information or resources. Ministry is partnering with the Door County Senior Resource Center, Door County Aging and Disability Resource Center, Door County Caregivers Coalition and Door County Library to offer this opportunity to the community.
Click here for more information about Ministry’s Memory Clinic or to schedule a free screening, or call Christy Wisniewski at (920) 746-3504.