Jenell and Don Emrich visit Busch Stadium as participants of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Cardinals Reminiscence League.
It’s not every day a pop fly, home run or World Series occurs, but when it does, it’s something everyone remembers.
To one group of people, it’s something that’s just too important to forget.
“We were asked to participate through the St. John’s Community Care Adult Day Services and we wanted to expand it throughout the area,” Elizabeth Zurliene, certified geriatric care manager with Care Management Professionals, said. “Our first session of reminiscence therapy started on March 17.”
Reminiscence therapy involves discussion of past activities and memories, allowing people suffering with memory loss and related diseases to remember important facts about their lives. It focuses on what people affected by dementia and Alzheimer’s still have instead of what they may lose.
“Reminiscence therapy started in the St. Louis area about eight years ago,” said Dr. John Morley, a professor who specializes in geriatric medicine for SLUCare Physician Group. “We had a professor from Scotland come and speak to us about this type of therapy.”
Reminiscence therapy became popular in Scotland after people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s were able to recall memories if they were linked to something they all could identify with, such as sports. That same philosophy was applied in St. Louis, but instead of soccer, the Cardinals became the focus.
“I’d like to see this take off in all the major cities,” Morley said. “I want to see this across the country.”
“Many times, it’s tough for people suffering from Alzheimer’s to remember what they ate for breakfast, but they can remember old memories,” Elizabeth said. “This helps them feel better and remember things.”
Elizabeth, along with her husband, Mark, has teamed with the Alzheimer’s Association St. Louis Chapter and St. John’s Community Care in Edwardsville to facilitate the monthly meetings. The Cardinal Reminiscence League builds on the reminiscence therapy pioneered by the Saint Louis University Geriatric Education Center in partnership with the St. Louis Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
The meetings typically start like any baseball game, with the playing of the national anthem. From there, participants will take turns telling fond stories of how baseball has shaped who they are and their favorite memories and moments of Cardinals history. Mark said about two-thirds of the way through the session, everyone stands up and sings “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” and they play games and have activities, as well.
“During the first meeting, we played a clip from ‘Field of Dreams,’” Mark said. “One of the attendees had actually been there.” The monthly meetings aren’t just for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia, but their caregivers as well.
“We’ve had many caregivers attend the first meeting, and many of them heard stories from the participants that they had never heard before,” Elizabeth said. “They find out things they never knew and it builds a connection between the two.”
Both Mark and Elizabeth say many of the participants and caregivers approached them after the first meeting, thanking them for the experience.
“Many of them said ‘we will be back’ and they just lit up,” Elizabeth said. “They can’t wait for the next session.”
Since this is still a new entity, the couple is ironing out some details, but Mark said they hope to have speakers from the Cardinals as well as other possibilities.
“People have grown from hearing the participants’ life stories,” Mark said. “Talking about your life helps.”
Each session runs from 10:30 a.m. until noon the third Thursday of each month through November at St. John’s Community Care in Edwardsville.
For information, visit stjohnscc.org/2671-2.