The Power of Play

“She has her LEGO zone in the living room and works on it whenever she feels like it,” says Ed Girard.

Ed is often seen bragging about his wife, Therese (or “Terry” as he calls her) and her ongoing project — a 3,000-piece LEGO mosaic of Mickey Mouse.

“It goes by color and number and Terry has her own system; she likes doing it,” explains Ed.

Terry was diagnosed with vascular dementia nearly three years ago. Since then Ed has been her caregiver.  He says Terry suffered from a fall while gardening at their home of 50 years in Avon. “We decided to move here after that,” says Ed. The two now live at St. John’s Meadows.

Terry with her almost-complete mosaic.

The couple of 60 years spend a lot of time together, so Ed says it is nice to have an activity like LEGO-building for Terry to do on her own. “Terry loves to read,” says Ed, “but I wanted her to do something a bit more active and she didn’t like the puzzles we tried.”

Terry says she is used to working with her hands because of her past favorite activity of weaving on historic looms at the Genesee Country Village & Museum. Both she and Ed were interpreters at the museum for several years. Ed still volunteers, often dressing up as Johnny Appleseed.

“As a caregiver, it is nice that she has something to do; I can take a break and read while she works.” Ed says that Terry feels comfortable working on the mosaic by herself while he reads his detective stories.

“It really interests her and gives her flexibility — she works on it when she wants and for however long she wants.”

Lifted Care, a British at-home dementia care company, says that not only can LEGO building help younger people who live with mental difficulties, but the same goes for older adults living with dementia. According to Lifted, LEGOs have shown promising results. That older adults with dementia had “improved concentration, increased their motivation and creativity – and revived many happy memories.”

The Girards say that their daughter, Nadine, got Terry’s first LEGO set for Christmas following a caregiver event at Brickstone by St. John’s. The event featured speaker and author Loretta Veney, who uses the power of play through Lego building in dementia caregiving.

Ed says that programs such as the Veney event and the St. John’s Meadows Caregiver Support Group have helped him a lot in navigating his wife’s diagnosis.

“I like to read and do a lot of research about [dementia],” says Ed. “The group of us that meet share a lot of that information with each other, it is really nice to talk with them.”

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