Alzheimer's blog

Teamwork unites caregivers, those with dementia

By Angela Lunde March 6, 2013

The Meeting of the Minds Dementia Conference 2013 has ended. After many years of planning and participating in these conferences, they're beginning to feel a bit like a family reunion. While most of the faces I see are still new, more and more are familiar and oh-so-special.

The conference this year reflected the spirit and compassion of more than 1,000 people coming together to find better ways to care for one another. Pat Summit, the winningest college basketball coach in history, now living with younger onset Alzheimer's, along with her former player, Michelle Marciniak, opened the conference.

Her remarks were brief but impactful. Her advice — surround yourself with a good team. She spoke of her son's support with pride and gratitude. She thanked Ronald Petersen, her Mayo Clinic doctor, for his role and commitment to her care. And when Michelle spoke, it was clear that she and the other players who knew Pat Summit as both coach and mom were back on her team to offer endless support.

Hopefully we all have a team, or at least a precious few that offer us healing energy and unconditional support. Yet, in the face of adversity, relationships often change, and our existing support systems can waver. As I walked around the conference and spoke with caregivers and those individuals living with Alzheimer's or a related dementia, I could see and hear new relationships being formed.

A new version of life was emerging; a version that exposes what's truly important, or perhaps one that's discovering how resilient the inner self can be. A version, at least I hope, that believes we are all people, with or without a label of disease, worthy of a meaningful life from beginning to end. And a version that indisputably recognizes that relationships are essential to well-being and that belonging to a "team" is a basic need.

At the end of the conference, however, precious silence and solitude was my welcomed gift, a time for replenishing and reflecting. What I felt most was gratitude — thankful to my passionate colleagues who share in this mission, thankful to my extended family (all of you) living this journey for the ways in which you enrich my life, and more importantly what you offer one another. To those of you who attended our "'reunion" last Saturday, I hope you received something in return.

"You never know how much you belong until you walk in."

- Marty, conference attendee

March 06, 2013