About three years ago, Ecumen Detroit Lakes’ Emmanuel Nursing Home hosted a traveling quilt exhibit, “Alzheimer’s Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope,” which included a series of 236 “name quilts” featuring the names of more than 10,000 people across the U.S. who had been affected by Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

The project to bring the quilts to Detroit Lakes was spearheaded by Ecumen’s Corinna Honer, who is herself a member of the local Lakes Area Quilt Guild. Honer had seen a similar exhibit from the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative (which also created the ‘Alzheimer’s Illustrated’ exhibit) when it was displayed as part of the Minnesota State Quilt Show in 2010. She decided that she wanted to share the exhibit with her own community.

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“I was very moved by it,” Honer said.

Even though she was unable to bring that initial AAQI exhibit to Detroit Lakes, Honer did succeed in her goal for Emmanuel to become a host for the second one during its travels across the U.S.

When Honer and her fellow Lakes Area Quilt Guild members saw the exhibit at Emmanuel in October 2012, they decided to create a similar quilt, featuring the names of people from the lakes area who had also been affected by this devastating neurological disease.

“We were really inspired by that exhibit,” Honer said. “We wanted one of our own.”

“Several people who came to see the exhibit also asked to be able to put the names of their loved ones on a similar quilt,” said Ecumen Detroit Lakes Executive Director Janet Green.

Though it took a while to complete the project, the Lakes Area Quilters eventually obtained and added the names of 144 local residents whose lives had been forever altered by a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or a related form of dementia.

“It’s been a joint effort by several Guild members,” said quilter Kathy Disse, who was one of those who worked on putting the art quilt together. Guild member Viv Bjornlie of Thimbleless Quilting in Detroit Lakes added the quilting stitches to the finished pieces.

The Guild presented the quilt to Ecumen-Detroit Lakes this past week, in recognition of November being National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.

The quilt, titled “Peace & Tranquility,” features a center piece with the pattern “Lakeside Retreat,” created by Sue Pritt, which depicts a scenic, peaceful Minnesota landscape. It is surrounded by six side panels filled with the names of individuals who have been affected by Alzheimer’s disease, each of which has a connection with Ecumen-Detroit Lakes.

There is space on each of the panels to add more names, Honer said, and more panels can also be added in the future.

According to the narrative that will be placed alongside the quilt, all of the individuals named on the quilt “have lived, worked or volunteered at Ecumen Detroit Lakes, or are a part of our extended family.” The title of the quilt comes from the definitions of “peace, a state of calmness and harmony in relationships,” and “tranquility, meaning to be free from agitation of mind and spirit,” as the narrative explains.

The color purple, which is the official color of Alzheimer’s awareness, is prominently featured, along with complimentary shades of blue, gray and black.

In homage to the original AAQI traveling exhibit, the names on the local quilt were placed on the “wrong side” of the fabric, where the colors are more faded - a symbolic representation of how one’s memories, and eventually, one’s life, begin to gradually fade away as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.

“This quilt helps to recognize and bring awareness to this disease, as well as hope for the future,” Green said.

“It’s dedicated to all those people who have had Alzheimer’s, both living and not,” Honer said. “We wanted to remember and honor them, and to bring hope that some day there might be a cure.”

“We all know someone whose life has been affected by it,” Green said.

Locally, there are two support groups that meet regularly to help those who are living with the disease, and their caregivers, she added.

Act on Alzheimer’s

Green said the “Peace & Tranquility” quilt will be on permanent display at Emmanuel, as it fits quite well with Ecumen’s role in leading the local Act on Alzheimer’s initiative.

In 2014, Ecumen Detroit Lakes was awarded $18,000 from Act on Alzheimer’s, a volunteer driven, statewide collaboration preparing Minnesota for the impacts of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Over the 18-month life of the grant, Ecumen-DL has served as the administrative agent for a four-phase process aimed at making Detroit Lakes “dementia friendly” - a process that has involved more than 40 service agencies and businesses in the community, according to Sandy Lia, Ecumen-DL’s development director.

The four phases of the Act on Alzheimer’s project include:

  • Convening key community leaders and members to form an Action Team;
  • Assessing current strengths and gaps in services within the community;
  • Analyzing community needs and developing a plan to take action;
  • Acting together to pursue priority goals that foster community readiness for dementia.

Green said the initiative is in its final phase. “We will be training local businesses to be Alzheimer’s friendly,” she added. “We will go out to any businesses that are interested and provide education.”

As part of this training, the ACT on Alzheimer’s Community Action Team has developed a “dementia-friendly toolkit” to distribute to local businesses, Lia said. Once they have agreed to accept and review the toolkit, they will receive a window cling to display that identifies them as a “dementia-friendly business.”

Each toolkit includes the following:

  • A “Know the 10 Signs” brochure and bookmark that includes 10 identifying markers for early detection of Alzheimer’s/dementia.
  • A “10 Ways to Help/10 Approaches to Communication” bookmark for assisting those living with Alzheimer’s/dementia.
  • An “ACT on Alzheimer’s- Dementia is Everyone’s Business” handout.
  • A Resources Guide.
  • A list of Detroit Lakes Community Action Team members.

“This toolkit should be ready to roll out in November,” Lia said - and that’s just the first of several things that the group is planning to do to make Detroit Lakes more dementia friendly.

Green said that on Thursday, Dec. 10, Ecumen-DL will host an education program on “The 10 Signs of Alzheimer’s” at 4 p.m. in the Forest Conference Center at Emmanuel. The program is open to the public.

“Earlier diagnosis can help to slow its effects, and also to support people through their journey with the disease,” Green said.

Some quick facts about Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s has become one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States - and the only one that cannot currently be prevented, slowed or cured, according to statistics provided by the Alzheimer’s Association.

In 2015, there are an estimated 5.3 million Americans - 89,000 in Minnesota alone - who are currently living with the disease. It is the No. 6 leading cause of death in both Minnesota, and the U.S. as a whole.

For more information, please visit the Act on Alzheimer’s website, www.actonalz.org.

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