Judy

Dementia Caregiving

To tell about myself and my faith journey is not easy, as there are many emotions that surface when I do. I was born in Charles City, Iowa, and when I was seven years old, my parents, sister and I moved to Maple Grove, MN. One of my most life changing events occurred when I was sixteen. My family and I were in a car accident. The accident took the lives of my both of my parents. After that, I was very angry with God, but I soon found that staying angry was not the way to go. With my faith in God, my desire to help hurting people started growing then.

After my parents death, I moved back to Iowa to live with relatives. I joined the Methodist church that my grandparents belonged to. After high school I moved back to Minnesota.

Pete and I were married 43 years ago at St Raphael’s Catholic Church in Crystal. We lived for many years in Crystal and Brooklyn Park. We have two children (son and daughter) and 4 grandsons. We adopted our children at the ages of 8 and 9. Both of them came to us with their own childhood pain and struggles. With the guidance of God we were able to help them find their way. God’s gift of bringing our children into our lives has been a blessing in so many ways. It’s always enjoyable spending time with our family.

I joined the Catholic Church four years after Pete and I were married. When we moved to Buffalo and found Zion we decided to leave the Catholic Church. Before deciding on Zion, we had visited a number of other churches. It was very important to us that we find a church that was welcoming and comforting. I wanted to be sure that Pete felt that way, because he was leaving the Catholic Church after attending it his whole life.

Pete and I became members of Zion 20 years ago. I will always remember how welcoming Pastor John and Pastor Ed were to us. It wasn’t long after we joined that Pastor John and Howard Burgdorf wanted us to go to leadership training for Stephen Ministries. It meant so much to us to be asked to serve as Stephen Ministry Leaders at Zion. To be part of a caring ministry, with the focus of helping others was very important to us. We held this role for approximately nine years.

Since joining Zion I’ve also been involved in a number of other ministries which include: Women’s Ministries, New Member Committee, greeting and serving coffee on Sunday mornings, Harvest of Hands, serving communion, Lutefisk Dinner, 40 Days of Purpose, Bible studies, and 40 Days of Community.

I became Community Coordinator for Buffalo Area Dementia Friends when it was formed 3 1/2 years ago.

My journey of starting to learn about dementia began almost 7 years ago when Pete was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I remember how devastated and overwhelmed we felt, wondering what was ahead, and wondering, what next? When I look back now, I realize how thankful I am that we got his diagnosis when we did. However, the first doctor we went to said there wasn’t anything wrong with Pete. I knew there was, and I was going to find an answer to the changes I was seeing in him. After consulting with a different doctor, we were referred to a neuro-psychologist who gave us the diagnosis. Although, I was trying to convince myself that this wasn’t really happening, I also remember Pete saying, “maybe it won’t get all that bad.” We both found that talking with Pastor Ted was strengthening in helping us to see that we weren’t alone. After talking with him, we were much more receptive to the shock of what was happening in our lives, and we decided that we would be open about his disease. And we’ve found that being open about Alzheimer’s has been a good thing. After Pete’s diagnosis, his neuro-psychologist, suggested that it would be good for me to find a support group. The closest one that I could find at that time, was in Becker, which was available to me once a month. Pete joined a respite group there which provided him with fellowship, activities and socialization.

As I was experiencing my own struggles as a caregiver of someone with dementia, I also was hearing the struggles of others in my support group. I started thinking about how helpful it would be if we had supportive resources for the caregiver and car receiver living with dementia in this area.

During this time I heard about ACT on Alzheimer’s, a national organization that had a Dementia Friendly initiative program. After discussion with Pete, we agreed that getting in involved with ACT on Alzheimer’s would be a great way of helping others, as well as educating and bringing awareness to our community.

With the help of a close friend, and the Director of the Buffalo Adult Day Program at Parkview Care Center, where Pete was attending, and from Central Minnesota Council on Aging we started pulling together members of different community organizations to form Buffalo Area Dementia Friends, and the Action Team was started. Pete was able to attend a number of the meetings in the first year.

Two years ago this coming March, Pete started living at the Glen Buffalo Memory Care, as it was no longer possible for me to care for him at home. With God and my faith I have been able to move on, but that’s not been easy. I miss having Pete at home. The loneliness gets very difficult at times. I hold onto the fact that he wanted us to pursue this initiative program, which has now become Buffalo Area Dementia Friends. He will always me my top priority!

I’m amazed at the number of people in this community that have shown an interest in this program and have joined the Buffalo Area Dementia Friends Action Team. I’m very thankful and appreciative to the staff and members of Zion for their support in helping those with dementia.

What we want is to have is a community that is informed, safe and respectful of people living with dementia and their families. We want a community that has supportive features and fosters quality of life for everyone.

Learn more about Buffalo Area Dementia Friends

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