Early stage Alzheimer's patients exercise their minds at Mystic Aquarium
“We’re giggling like kids,” said Linda Meyers as she and her husband Bruce, of Gales Ferry, watched the beluga whales swim around the exhibit after a morning feeding. The couple cheered and laughed every time a whale got closed to them, holding hands the whole time. Bruce was diagnosed with Alzheimer's about 10 years ago. He is currently involved in clinical trials at the Yale Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.
“It’s important because people understand your journey, what this is like, they understand the frustrations,” said Linda of why they participate in the chapter’s Give Alzheimer's Purpose “GAP” program. “Everyone here understands the joy of this kind.” She said this kind of enrichment program has really helped them a lot.
The GAP program offers early-stage social engagement programs to connect to others who are living through similar diagnoses. The program with the Mystic Aquarium started recently. This is the program’s second visit to the aquarium.
“Once people get diagnosed they often start to isolate” said Kristopher Sortwell, director of community Outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association. “Keeping them socializing and keeping them active is exercising their brains, which has proven to be helpful with this diagnosis.”
Wendy Forbes and her wife Christine Pagano, of Killingly, were another couple who visited the aquarium Monday. Forbes was diagnosed with Alzheimer's about five or six years ago. Monday, however, was a day of celebration for the couple. It was their 13th wedding anniversary.
“This is a pretty good place to celebrate an anniversary,” said Forbes.
Those interested in joining GAP or in need of more information and local resources regarding Alzheimer’s can contact the Alzheimer's Association Connecticut’s 24/7 hotline at 800-272-3900.