Holding on to Memories

Former Public Health Nurse Incorporates Dementia Prevention Learning into Daily Life

While serving Greene County residents for more than 25 years, RN Laine Custer worked hands-on treating a variety of age-related illnesses. That, combined with a special class and a loved one who suffered from dementia found her putting theory and experience into practice.

Before her retirement in 2019, Laine attended a newly-developed course. “The Director of Public Health was Patricia Quinlisk and she brought up this project they were doing about ‘Save Your Brain.’ She talked about her mother having dementia and how important it was to her to try and do some research and finding out about were there ways to help prevent dementia?”

Laine shared her personal experience with Quinlisk. “I went back to her and said thank you so much for doing this because my father just passed away, and he had dementia.”

Looking back at her father’s illness, Laine could more clearly see the early signs of dementia. “He knew something wasn’t right and I remember mom saying he said I’m doing the best I can. That he knew things were muddled in the initial stages and he was trying to handle it.” It was heartbreaking for the entire family to see the progression of the disease from there and the changes it brought.

Laine’s educational experience from a few years ago has evolved into a 10-week course, Unlocking Brain Fitness: Keys to Dementia Prevention. It focuses on 10 lifestyle factors that can be changed to prevent dementia by up to 70%. For Laine, enrollment is just good healthcare for anyone 55 and older.

Greene County Public Health, the Alzheimer’s Association and the YMCA of Greater Des Moines have partnered to bring these courses to Jefferson. KEYS is designed for those 55 and over who DO NOT have a diagnosis of dementia or significant cognitive decline. All classes will meet at the Greene County Community Center and are led by Wolf and Deb Hoskins, RN. The next session will be held every Tuesday beginning February 28, running through May 2 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. 

According to Laine, attendees will not only be given information on how to make these lifestyle changes, they will collaborate with pharmacists, dietitians, physical therapists and more. They will learn how to adjust sleep habits, reduce stress and how socialization is a necessary part of the plan.

The main motivation for Laine to do everything she can to help maintain her memory is her family: husband Tom; daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren, Leslie, Nick, Keelan and Jackson of West Des Moines; and son Grant and partner Parvoneh of Brooklyn, New York.  The changes, she says, have been incorporated into their day-to-day lives; especially as she and Tom consider their loved ones. “I think I owe it to my family to not have them suffer through what our family did with Dad. If there is something I can do to help prevent that for my kids, my siblings, my husband, my grandkids, why not?”

For more information about dementia prevention or to sign up for one of the courses, call Greene County Public Health at 515-386-3228.