Ecumen continues leadership in Alzheimer’s care

Ever since Emmanuel became the first nursing home in the state to incorporate a memory care wing in the 1980s, the Detroit Lakes facility has been an innovator in caring for patients suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia-related illnesses.

Ever since Emmanuel became the first nursing home in the state to incorporate a memory care wing in the 1980s, the Detroit Lakes facility has been an innovator in caring for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia-related illnesses.

In June 2011, Emmanuel implemented a new program known as Awakenings, which introduced a more individualized form of care for patients living with dementia in Ecumen’s nursing home facilities across the state.

“It’s a two-part program aimed at reducing the inappropriate use of psychotropics (mood-altering drugs),” said Janet Green, executive director of Ecumen-Detroit Lakes (which includes Emmanuel).

Rather than simply using drugs as a blanket treatment, the program looks at each patient individually and implements a more personalized form of care, tailored to their specific needs.

“Because they have lost much of their verbal communication skills, it’s difficult communicating what they need and want,” Green explained.


Ecumen’s staff have been trained to interact with residents of its memory care unit, studying each individual to see what upsets them, what soothes them and what makes them happy - without medication as a precursor.

“We try to enter the world of the person we’re serving instead of trying to bring them into our reality (with the use of drugs),” Green said.

In 2013 Awakenings received the Aging Services of Minnesota’s Leading Change Innovation Award and in 2014, received the National Excellence in Dementia Care Award presented by LeadingAge, the national association for non-profit aging services providers.

Ecumen Awakenings also has received media attention for its innovative approach to dementia care from the Washington Post, The New York Times, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and KARE11-TV. (Go to for more information.)

The program proved so successful in Ecumen’s nursing homes that in August 2014, the organization was awarded a $265,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services to fund the expansion of Awakenings into its assisted living facilities across the state.

And now, Ecumen-Detroit Lakes has been awarded approximately $18,000 in grant funding 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 (which was awarded in 2014), Ecumen-DL has been the administrative agent for a four-phase process aimed at making Detroit Lakes “dementia capable” - a process that has involved more than 40 service agencies and businesses in the community, according to Sandy Lia, Ecumen-DL’s development director.

“We are coordinating a community-wide response, identifying gaps in services to improve our programming and support those with Alzheimer’s and dementia-related illnesses, and their caregivers, and increasing awareness so we can all better serve those living with these diseases,” she added.


“Forty-five communities in Minnesota have Act on Alzheimer’s programs,” Green said. “We’re learning from each other, making sure our community is serving people living with dementia now, and preparing for increased numbers in the future.”

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.

“We are in the analyzing phase right now, and will begin implementation in March,” Green said, adding that this fourth phase will involve “identifying priority projects” and beginning to implement them in the community.

As a result of being involved with Act on Alzheimer’s, Detroit Lakes was given the opportunity to host a public screening of “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me,” a film that documents the country music superstar’s battle with Alzheimer’s and the impact it’s had on both him and his family.


That screening will take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 24, inside Ecumen’s Forest Conference Center, which is part of its brand-new Wellness Center.

“What better way to raise awareness (of Alzheimer’s) than to be able to tell Glen Campbell’s story?” Green said, noting that if not for this screening, many Detroit Lakes residents would not have had an opportunity to see the documentary, which has not been widely distributed in this area.

The screening will be a precursor to Ecumen-DL’s annual charity benefit, which begins at 4:30 p.m.

“Those attending the screening and benefit will get a sneak peek at our new Wellness Center,” Green said. “People can mingle and visit, listen to live music and see our wonderful center, while learning more about Alzheimer’s.”

Though the screening is free and open to the public, due to limited seating, tickets are required for admission. Contact Lia at 218-844-8340 for more information.

The one hour, 45-minute movie will be followed by a 15-minute panel discussion on Alzheimer’s and dementia, led by Ecumen’s medical director, Dr. William Henke.

After the screening and panel discussion, the benefit begins, and will include heavy hors d’oeuvres and live entertainment by Barry Schroder - who will be playing Ecumen’s own baby grand piano, set up next to the bar inside the main entrance to the Wellness Center.

There will also be a silent auction featuring a variety of unique items donated by local businesses and individuals.


Tickets for the benefit are $50, and may be obtained at Ecumen-Detroit Lakes either in advance or at the door on Jan. 24.

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

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at
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