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Jogging Memories with “Rummage Kits”

February 2, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS - The Alzheimer's Association of Minnesota and North Dakota predicts Minnesota will experience a growth in Alzheimer's patients of 25 percent between 2000 and 2025. Drugs and medical procedures are helping to prevent and treat memory loss, but a new, inexpensive approach is also proving to be a great tool.

"Rummage Kits" have been developed by Beth Terborg, a certified therapeutic recreation specialist from Michigan. Terborg says it starts with providing items that are familiar, based on a person's life experience.

"Somebody who likes to be out in the woods and hunting, we bought a guide for all the great fishing lakes and some hunting vests. We looked specifically for different colors and textures – things that you could see, things that you could smell, things that you can hear – so that we are stimulating all of the senses."

Terborg says the kits can also be used to exercise the mind. She offers an example, using a kit called "Ladies Night Out" that includes a hat and gloves. Terborg says those two things could stimulate a memory and also be an opportunity to focus the conversation on the present.

"'If you were going outdoors, would you need a pair of gloves like this or would you choose a warmer glove?' 'I would choose a warmer glove.' 'Well, let's look outside. Do you think it's spring, or summer, or winter? There's snow on the ground...' 'Oh, it's winter.' 'Okay! So, if we wanted to take a walk outdoors, into the snow, which pair of gloves would you choose? Would you put hats on, and boots and things like that?'"

Terborg says she's put together Rummage Kits for patients who have backgrounds in teaching, fishing, camping, sewing or other special interests. Among her patients, the "Childcare Kit" with a lifelike baby doll is the most popular. She says it's easy and inexpensive to put a kit together.

Sharon Rolenc, Public News Service - MN