Minnesota Hospital Association


May 26, 2021

Memory Minder Kits exercise the mind, foster dementia-friendly communities

This story is featured in MHA's community benefit report.

When the COVID-19 pandemic prompted massive shutdowns and prolonged isolation, the Wabasha County Senior Health Action Team (WCSHAT) – which includes Gundersen St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and Clinics in addition to representation from Ace Brain Fitness, Elder Network, Southeast Area Agency on Aging, Wabasha County Public Health, Wabasha Public Library, community members and senior advocates – used imagination and resourcefulness to establish new ways of achieving its goal of fostering dementia-friendly communities as part of its Community Health Improvement Plan.

With efforts placed on temporary hold to form Memory Cafés for families touched by dementia, WCSHAT sought funding from the Wabasha County Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) to develop Memory Minder Kits that are widely accessible through the local library system. Gundersen St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and Clinics contributes staff time and other expenses to this initiative.

The kits are outfitted with instructions, guidance, materials and supplies to facilitate a variety of evidence-based interactive exercises and activities that stimulate the mind and memory. Examples of activities include puzzles; word, coloring and memory games; conversation starter cards and picture books; and relaxing music CDs. Kits are modeled after a similar project in another Minnesota community that was highly successful in helping caregivers lead meaningful interactions that enhance cognitive functioning for people with all forms of dementia.
Activities are designed to prevent cognitive decline for older adults who want to maintain their mental functioning. Other kits target caregivers of seniors who are experiencing mild to extensive memory loss.

“We have assembled eight kits so far,” said Bev Hall, director of Wabasha Public Library and member of WCSHAT. “These kits serve as our pilot project. There are two kits per level that can be checked out. Kits are adaptable to be facilitated in one-to-one or group sessions and can be enjoyed in family households or congregate living settings. Included in each kit is an evaluation. We are requesting that evaluations are completed when the kits are returned so we can make necessary adjustments and improvements to ensure they meet community needs and expectations. This feedback will guide the development of additional kits.”

Eventually, a collection of 16 kits representing four levels of challenge and emphasis will be available by checkout through the Wabasha Public Library.

“I am so excited to make these Memory Minder Kits available to seniors and families,” said MJ Moravec, a certified cognitive skills trainer and member of WCSHAT who was instrumental in offering consultation on evidence-based activities that would be featured in the kits. “These kits provide everything needed to activate the brain, build strong mental connectivity and improve memory. It is our hope that as kits are used and shared throughout our communities, they will offer helpful and effective resources that enhance wellness of body and mind across the aging spectrum.”