Book helps people with dementia find joy

By KBJR News 1

February 17, 2014 Updated Feb 17, 2014 at 8:19 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - A Northland psychologist knows that being diagnosed with dementia does not have to be a death sentence for a person's happiness.

Mary McHardy is a licensed psychologist at Essentia Health in Duluth, working with people who suffer from memory loss. It was while working in Essentia's neurology department that she had the idea to write "Reflections and Memories," a book helping short term memory loss patients focus on the memories they do have, prompting them to write them down in the scrapbook-like book.

"I found that one of the most enjoyable things was the ability to talk about the past," said McHardy, "We give the book out to people with the intent of saying, here's a tool to focus on what you can do; Your talents, your abilities, your memories."

With funding from the Miller-Dwan Foundation, more than 100 books have been given to memory loss patients. Diana Killian is one of them.

"I remember all this [memories in the book]. I just don't remember what I did yesterday," said Killian, "It's strange. It's a real strange disease."

Diagnosed in 2012 with a form of dementia that steals her short term memory, Diana spent over a year documenting her life in the book.

"I look at it everyday and try to remember some of the things I see in there," she said.

While there is no cure for dementia, McHardy says the books help patients find hope.

"Even though people have been diagnosed with a memory problem, whatever that problem might be, whether it's a mild cognitive impairment or dementia, it's not the end of the road," said McHardy.

The Miller–Dwan Foundation was able to fund the books from a donation made to them by two of their supporters, both of whom had memory impairments.

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.