- With Mayo Clinic health education outreach coordinator
Angela Lunderead biographyclose window
Angela LundeAngela LundeAngela Lunde is a dementia education specialist in the education core of Mayo Clinic's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at the Abigail Van Buren Alzheimer's Disease Research Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
The transfer of information about dementias, as well as understanding the need for participation in clinical trials, is an essential component of the education core.
Angela is a member of the Alzheimer's Association board of directors and co-chair of the annual Minnesota Dementia Conference. She is a member of the Dementia Behavior Assessment and Response Team (D-BART), a multidisciplinary outreach service assisting professional and family caregivers in understanding and managing difficult behaviors often present in dementia. She facilitates several support groups, including Memory Club, an early-stage education and support series, and more recently, helped to develop and now deliver Healthy Action to Benefit Independence and Thinking (HABIT), a 10-day cognitive rehab and wellness program for people with mild cognitive impairment.
Angela takes a personal interest in understanding the complex changes that take place within relationships and among families when dementia is present. She is particularly interested in providing innovative and accessible ways for people with dementia and their families to receive information and participate in valuable programs that promote well-being.
"Amid a devastating disease, there are tools, therapies, programs and ways to cope, and it is vital that families are connected to these resources," she says.
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May 14, 2013
Alzheimer's support group gets lift from humor, sharing
By Angela Lunde
Last week I was invited to gather with a group of individuals living with Alzheimer's and their support partners.
The group has been meeting regularly for more than a year. I was there to listen, offer perspective and guidance.
Each time I participate in a support group as a guest or a facilitator, I become aware of the group's vibe and dynamics. Every group is unique. What I felt immediately in this group from central Minnesota was light-heartedness and connection.
I've always been a strong proponent of finding a support group. I know sometimes finding one that feels right can be difficult, and it can take some time for an individual to feel comfortable and a group to bond. But sharing our stories is vital — they give witness to the truth of our lives, embrace our identity and invite in the strength that comes with community.
Sharing with one another is exactly what this group did for an hour or so on a cold and rainy day last week. Their conversation organically drifted from guilt and ambiguous loss, to the denial of close friends and family, to thoughts on acceptance and forgiveness.
No one pretended that everything was OK when it wasn't. They didn't try to solve each other's problems or dismiss one another's pain. Instead, they stayed present with each other and sat alongside the discomfort that arose. They were willing to let their true selves be seen.
Yet, the group's most powerful connector may have been humor. From time to time they would seamlessly shift into a playful frame of mind, making space for a bit of emotional release. It was clear that humor did not negate the challenges they faced; it was not a way to escape. Instead, humor seemed to ease the hold of the negative emotions and most importantly it strengthened the connection amongst the group.
I see humor as one of the key ingredients to cultivating resilience in life. We laugh most often when we're with other people. Studies show that laughter boosts the immune system and triggers the release of pleasure-inducing neurochemicals in the brain. It's no secret that sharing laughs makes us feel better and helps us bond.
Finding the humor is wonderfully depicted in Debbie Hoffmann's Oscar nominated documentary, "Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter" (l995). The film portrays Debbie's experience caring for her mother with Alzheimer's and remains one of my all-time favorites. It takes a personal story about the relationship between mother and daughter and coming to terms with advancing disease, and infuses it with insight and humor.
At the end of the documentary, Debbie concludes by saying, "We have very few coherent conversations anymore, but she loves to talk. I don't know what she's talking about, but she's having a great time. She laughs, I laugh. She's really doing fine."
I loved my morning with this beautiful little support group. We laughed with one another, exchanged smiles, connected and had fun. My only regret, said one woman, "I didn't find you all soon enough."blog index