Caring for the Caregivers

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Seefeldt finds Minds in Motion provides support for more than those with memory loss

For a long time – four years, in fact – Nancy Seefeldt tried to manage on her own.

She and her husband Darrell moved back to central Illinois from Colorado to take care of Darrell’s brother, Richard, who had cancer. But in the process of taking care of one person, Nancy realized she was having to care for her husband as well. 

For Nancy, a teacher in her previous life, helping people came naturally. This, however, went beyond her expertise.

“He wanted to do certain things that we had never done before,” Nancy said. “He was stubborn about it – I thought it was just marital issues. It wasn’t. It was his memory going away.

“I went into deep depression. I didn’t know how to handle any of this.”

Finally, it hit a breaking point. During one of Nancy’s check-ups with her family physician, Darrell chewed out the physician for not finding out some issues sooner. Recognizing signs of memory loss, the physician gave them a referral to see Tom Ala, MD, at SIU Medicine, where Darrell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. For Nancy, that first visit was just as important for her well-being.

“That was the beginning of my recovery.”

Armed with better information about Alzheimer’s, Nancy began exploring what else was out there in the world surrounding the disease. She picked through listings, looking for support groups and began to develop a new network of friends. 

A friend invited her to help organize a program, Minds in Motion, putting her teaching skills to use. But as she learned more about the program, Nancy realized she could bring Darrell as well. It took some convincing at first.

“He didn’t want to go any place because it had ‘those people,’ not realizing he was one of ‘those people,’ too. He was not a real good participant,” Nancy said with a laugh, “but he saw people doing things… it was those multi-tasking things that I think really helped him.”

Minds in Motion participants take part in a brain exercise game, one of the many types of activities in the program.

For four hours, Minds in Motion uses art, exercise, music, brain games and more with the goal to improve or maintain mental, physical and emotional well-being. It is a free, evidence-based program designed specifically for persons experiencing memory loss or dementia. Thanks to funding from partners like the King's Daughters Organization Fund at the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln, Minds in Motion is held twice a month. 

Nancy saw the benefits first-hand. Even with Darrell’s reluctance at times to fully join in, she saw his scores increase when a visit to the Memory and Aging Clinic followed a Minds in Motion class. While the activities are designed to strengthen stability, memory and other issues, being around others in similar situations was invaluable as well for her.

“The camaraderie was worth it,” she said. “It was a relief to know when I came here at 10 o’clock and I didn’t leave until 2 o’clock, I didn’t have to worry about what he’d get into.”

Darrell passed in 2019 at the age of 74. But Nancy still makes Minds in Motion a priority in her volunteer efforts. From helping participants weave art projects together or sharing experiences with other caregivers, Nancy certainly knows the benefits of the program.

And she doesn’t want anyone else to travel that journey on their own.

“Here, there were so many people willing to help and we were all on the same page. And I guess at the time I didn’t realize how peaceful it made me feel.”

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