Ironwood Carnegie Library offers memory kits for Alzheimer's patients


November 19, 2021

Charity Smith/Daily Globe

THE IRONWOOD Carnegie Library now offers "memory kits" such as the one seen here, which includes a pair of ruby slippers, a plastic Oscar Trophy, and a book about past movie stars. The library also offers books for those who are starting to experience memory loss, as well as books for those who care for Alzheimer's patients.


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Ironwood - November is National Alzheimer's Awareness, National Family Caregiver, and National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. In honor of this, the Ironwood Carnegie Library has put together some "memory kits," to help jog the memory of those who are affected by the disease.

"We have started to recognize the needs of an aging population over the past few years and are working toward better serving those patrons," said library director Lynne Wiercinski. "November is an opportune time to talk about and promote these resources."

The "memory kits" each have several items that focus on a theme. For example, one of the nostalgia kits has a pair of ruby slippers and a plastic Oscar statue, along with a book of movie stars of the past. Some of the kits include modified versions of games that an individual might have once enjoyed but now has difficulty playing. The kits are available to be checked out by family caregivers, nursing home staff or anyone else who is interested. There are approximately 20 kits available thanks to a grant the library received a few years ago from the Gogebic Range United Way. The pandemic forced the library to put the use of the kits on hold last year, along with community awareness activities.

"All of the kits are created to make social time spent together more enjoyable and meaningful," said Wiercinski. "Some of the kits might contain books, music and items that could spur conversation."

She said she has been speaking with the social workers at area hospitals, UPCAP Services, and the nursing homes and will be speaking to some of the area support groups in the coming months about the resources the library has available for dementia patients.

"Everyone has been extremely open and enthusiastic about being able to work as a team to promote and create an awareness of the resources we have," said Wiercinski.

While the library does not currently offer dementia-friendly programing it is not out of the question for the future, said Wiercinski. She said that many dementia friendly libraries offer an array of programs for older adults. In the past, the library has held programs through the Alzheimer's Association about aging conditions in person and virtually. The mission of the library is to strive to provide equitable access to materials and services which support the educational, cultural, and recreational needs of the entire community, Wiercinski said. She said they are always looking for ways to support patrons and make the library a useful resource for the entire community.

Dementia can be a stigmatizing condition, one that often causes isolation for those affected and the family members who care for them, said Wiercinski. The concept for dementia-friendly libraries is not new, she said, but it is unique in that it forces librarians to think of what they do in a different way, she said.

"It simply means that a public library takes the time to reflect on the needs of those patrons affected by dementia or other aging conditions and develop and provide some services and resources which they are able to use," said Wiercinski. "For children, we are always thinking of reading levels and helping them develop their reading skills. In the case of an older adult with dementia, we aren't necessarily finding resources to help them improve their cognitive skills, although what we can do is help them improve their quality of life. I think that is the underlying goal of this project, as it is with most of what we do. Improving the lives of the people we serve...through books, programs, education, and resources."

In addition to the kits, the library also has available large print and audio books for people who have some visual impairments and can assist residents in signing up with the Great Lakes Talking Books in Marquette, a part of a national network of cooperating libraries with the National Library Service for the blind and print disabled (NLS). NLS provides a free braille and talking book library service, circulating books and magazines in braille or audio formats that are instantly downloadable to a personal device (using the BARD Mobile app) or delivered by mail free of charge. Wiercinski said the library also has a small collection of short novels written for people who are entering the earlier stages of memory loss.

"Avid readers feel a great sense of loss when they no longer can enjoy their favorite hobby, and all of these resources could help them to continue to enjoy stories and books for a longer period of time," said Wiercinski.

There is also an "extensive"collection of books on caregiving issues available. "It's so easy for caregivers to feel overwhelmed or to think they are doing something wrong when a loved one is having a bad day," said Wiercinski. "The more they can learn about dementia or caring for someone with it, the more they can recognize their own strengths and their own limits."

"It's important for caregivers to feel capable, and the more they understand, the better they can care for their family member and for themselves," SHE SAID.

This project is very relatable for Wiercinski, who used to run a non-profit adult day respite center. She said that she became aware of the challenges family caregivers face and how hard it is for them to admit they need some help. "I think it's safe to say that every single one of us is going to be impacted by an aging condition, either our own or that of some we love, at some point," she said. "So it would seem that providing education and resources that support our aging community should be something our library prioritizes."

For more information, contact Wiercinski at 906-932-0203.


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