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The Cottage at Ecumen-DL sets up workshop for its residents

At the workshop, Cottage residents take on tasks like sorting objects. Submitted Photo1 / 3
At the workshop, Cottage residents take on tasks such as repairing a small engine. Submitted Photo2 / 3
There is also a customized work bench and memorabilia on the walls. Submitted Photo3 / 3

Though there is currently no cure for dementia and related diseases like Alzheimer's, one thing that has been shown to slow down its effects is keeping a person's mind actively engaged in the world around them.

At The Cottage, a memory care facility that is part of the Ecumen-Detroit Lakes campus, the staff has found a new way to engage residents' minds with the creation of life skill stations.

"Life skill stations enable the residents to find comfort in practicing daily routines and life skills that were previously apart of their everyday lives," says Mel Oelfke, housing manager at The Cottage.

"We encourage them to tap into their past to stimulate their creativity."

The Cottage's first life skill station, The Workshop, opened on Jan. 19, and Ecumen hopes to add more soon, Oelfke noted. It is open to any of the facility's 22 residents to come in during the day and engage in the activities available there.

"In 2013, we hope to add three more life skill stations to The Cottage," she said.

"A classroom to encourage those that spent years in classrooms teaching students, filled with classroom memorabilia; an old fashioned office with a desk, coat rack, vintage telephone, typewriter, lab coat, stethoscope and more; and a homemakers station that will have a clothesline, baskets of laundry, feather dusters, and a Hoky floor sweeper.

"A lot of the residents like to do domestic tasks," Oelfke noted -- for instance, they help to set up and clear tables for group meals, sort laundry, etc.

All of the tools and activities available at the life skills station are set up with the safety of the residents in mind, she added.

For instance, The Workshop has several simple tools available for residents to "fix things," such as their own wheelchairs, walkers and other small repair items.

The family of one resident who used to teach small engine repair at the local technical college has donated a small engine for him and other residents to work on, Oelfke added.

"The engine has been cleaned up, mounted and is safe for the residents to remove nuts, bolts, spark plugs, etc., and replace them," she said.

A staff member at The Cottage also recruited her father to help build the customized workbench, Oelfke noted.

Many of the activities set up in The Workshop were organized "with our gentlemen in mind," she said, because they are often "more difficult to engage."

But "just about every guy here had a garage or a shop to work in," she said. "That's where the dream for The Workshop came from -- we had a vision, and brought it to life."

There is also a recycling center set up in The Workshop where residents can collect cans, paper and plastics; a can crusher is available for them to crush the cans as well, Oelfke said.

A sorting area has been set up for those who have "excellent organizational skills" to separate paper, pipe cleaners and similar items according to size, shape and color.

In addition, a flower arranging station has been set up in The Workshop for the "green thumbed" residents to try their hand at arranging fake flowers and greenery in a variety of vases.

"We're hoping in the future to be able to do some smaller group crafts in here (The Workshop) as well," Oelfke said.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454