KIM Q&A with MindStart
President Monica Heltemes
1. KIM – You are an Occupational Therapist by trade, what prompted you to become a small business owner creating products for those with Dementia? Had you identified an un-met need in the marketplace?
MS – Occupational therapists help patients to be engaged in the daily activities of life, despite illness or disability. Four years ago, I was working as an OT with people with dementia at various stages – some living with spouses at home, some in an assisted living setting, and some in a secure memory care unit. Part of my treatment plan included assessing the patient’s level of thinking skills and then recommending activities that would work for their ability level and that was based on their past hobbies or preferences. Often, I would need to make these activities myself as either it did not exist on the market or if it did, it was a kid’s product with a juvenile appearance. I decided to take a chance and design some my own products based on my OT expertise, knowing that I could reach many more people through the products than seeing patients individually in OT sessions (although I still do that sometimes). MindStart was born!
2. KIM – What makes the MindStart products unique and different, from other available options?
MS – Many standard activity products come from large companies that cross market their early childhood development toys to dementia-care professionals. As these products are not designed for dementia, they may have limitations to their use. The features that make MindStart products unique include:
- Products that are based on careful analysis of how people with different levels of dementia can (or can’t) perform an activity combined with careful design in the product to allow the activity to match the level of the person. In a nutshell, they are activity products that have the needed modifications already built into the product.
- Activity products based on hobbies people may have previously enjoyed, using themes and images of adult life.
- User Guides, included with most products that allow quick and easy use by all who support the person with dementia – family, professional staff, friends, etc. The User Guides also include different ways to use the same product when the person’s needs change.
3. KIM – Share with the readers why you believe that your adaptive Dementia activity products are crucial to successful care. Might you share 1-2 success stories, showcasing the effectiveness of MindStart products?
MS – People with dementia have a need to be productive and active, just as you and I do. When people with dementia stop doing things because of their condition, they can become isolated, depressed, and have more behaviors such as anxiety. They also can have a faster rate of decline in their memory and abilities. When people with dementia stay active, they can maintain their abilities longer and can have days that are more enjoyable and satisfying. Below tells how 2 users of MindStart products were successful at being engaged and at using the skills that they still DO have, despite dementia.
A customer commented after purchasing a puzzle for her mom, “After receiving the puzzle, we worked on it a couple of times together. The next day I showed her where it was. She went straight to it and started working on it by herself. It took her a little while, but she enjoyed it and was proud of herself for doing it alone,” said Patricia.
Another customer reviewed our American Folk Art Color Book. “I was a little hesitant about buying this, wondering if my 92 year old Mom would “color”. I bought her a pack of markers to go with the book. Mom now tells me that “all her children want a picture”. She tells me she has been “painting”. She loves it. Thank you for making a book for adults. It takes her several days to finish a “painting”, keeps her busy and makes her feel good when a page is complete.”
4. KIM – Share your thoughts and opinions about how beneficial cognitive stimulation/activity is for those with Dementia, as a non-pharma (non-medicinal) first line of defense?
MS – I call it “activity therapy” for dementia, which is really just staying engaged in the happenings of everyday life, albeit in a different capacity. Research has shown that cognitive stimulation through things like games, puzzles, and socialization, showed a benefit in maintaining thinking and daily living abilities – benefits that were greater than any medication effects. Research has also shown that being engaged in activity reduces agitation and the need for medications, and enhances quality of life for people with dementia.
5. KIM – Your website offers so much more than Dementia activity products. Describe the other contributions MindStart makes, in trying to educate Dementia caregivers.
MS – Using an activity product is not the only way to keep people with dementia active. It can be things like household tasks, such as setting the table, or physical tasks such as weeding in the garden. The MindStart website includes education on what ‘activity’ is, why it is important in dementia care, how to modify activities, and how to incorporate them into the day. In addition, I offer my experience and perspective as an occupational therapist through writing on the MindStart blog about all topics, including tips for communication, setting up the environment, and daily life skills and tasks. My hope is to give caregivers additional tools to make daily life smoother and more enjoyable for both the person with dementia and the caregiver.
THANK YOU! Monica Heltemes, President of MindStart!