The activity-based KIDZ, or Kids in the Dementia Zone, at Littleton’s Highline Place is open to all children with relatives who suffer from dementia. Courtesy of Anthem
BY PETER JONES
Necessity is often the mother of invention—but sometimes it’s the grandmother.
When Jodi Cornman found there was a dearth of resources to help children cope with their family members suffering from dementia, she started one herself.
“All I could find were books on the internet. I came up with this idea to start a support group,” said Cornman, community-relations director at Highline Place, a Littleton memory-care center.
Last month, less than six months later, KIDZ, or Kids in the Dementia Zone, was launched at Highline, a community within the Anthem family of memory-care facilities.
KIDZ is believed to be the first children’s oriented program of its kind—and with a recent spurt in early-onset diagnoses of Alzheimer’s, it may have come along just in time. The immediate impetus for KIDZ was a pair of 9-year-old twins whose 52-year-old father was quickly declining.
“This guy could run five miles last month and now he falls when he starts running,” Cornman said. “We kind of wanted to get out of the box because we’re seeing a younger and younger onset. I’ve had 49-year-olds in my community.”
The free program, currently for children in grades first through fifth, is open to anyone, whether or not they have a family member at Highline.
“They can have a grandparent in Mississippi, so it really doesn’t matter. It’s open to the whole community,” Cornman said, noting that the monthly meetings will soon expand into a second group for older kids, including teenagers up to 12th grade.
The series is being led by Lexanne Leonard, a first-grade teacher for Cherry Creek Schools who created the curriculum, Kathleen Gorman, a hospice pastor, and Jill Rocha, a quality-improvement coach for Denver’s Early Childhood Council.
Cornman says KIDZ takes a mindful approach, mixing meditation-like exercises with tools for the participants to truly appreciate their loved ones in the moments they have with them.
“I call it stepping into their reality,” the organizer said. “If Mom thinks she’s at a hotel having lunch, that’s where you are. When you learn to do that, the stress level comes down so much. You just learn to have fun with them again.”
Cornman, whose own stepmother suffered from Alzheimer’s, says the activity-based program includes kids creating “memory boxes,” “journaling” about their experiences and discussing their often-difficult feelings with the group. Parents are asked to stay outside so the young participants can talk freely about family dynamics. Eventually, Highline residents will also be incorporated into the experience, when appropriate.
Perhaps the most troubling topic of discussion, for family members of all ages, are those moments when the afflicted relative does not remember their child or grandchild.
“A couple of the kids got pretty emotional talking about their situation,” Cornman said. “It gave us all chills that these kids were so involved. They’re little kids, and they’re tired and they’ve been at school all day, and they were so emotionally involved.”
Even those children who did not want to come to KIDZ left with something special.
“I saw them afterwards and they had smiles on their faces,” Cornman said.
KIDZ meets on the third Thursday of each month, 5-6 p.m. Snacks are served. RSVPs are appreciated by calling 303-703-3499. Highline Place is located at 6767 S. Broadway in Littleton. Highline also has similar support groups for adults. Visit anthemmemorycare.com for more information.
2017 All Rights Reserved. Villager Publishing |