LiveWise at the YMCA – Part 3

Alzheimer’s Disease affects millions of people each year.  There are about 180,000 people in the state of Michigan with Alzheimer’s.  Finding programs and treatment options to help is not always easy.  ABC 10’s Dan Gualdoni has more in part three of our series, LiveWise at the YMCA.



Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive brain disorder. It damages, and eventually destroys, brain cells, leading to memory loss and changes in thinking and other brain functions.  Ultimately, Alzheimer’s is fatal. There is currently no cure.

“There’s a lot of research going on,” says Roman Politi, M.D., a neurologist at Marquette General Hospital. “We know that it’s a degeneration of the brain that happens very slowly over many years. And very often the presumption is that this has been going on for quite sometime, even before people start showing symptoms.”

The Live Wise program was designed with that in mind. LiveWise is a small-group program for people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s…and their families. It’s a 16-week program that combines 45 minutes of a personalized exercise program with 45 minutes of education.

“Those individuals are working out with everyone else and no one knows they have early stage Alzheimer’s,” YMCA Senior Health Innovations leader Jenna Zdunek said.”They feel comfortable and confident to be out there. The first week, they would’ve never felt comfortable to go out in the wellness center without that coach right next to them. But now they are out there without their life style coach. They remember what to do, they have confidence, they remember how to use the equipment, and how much weight they should use. It’s amazing.”

Live wise is a partnership between the Alzheimer’s Association, the YMCA of Marquette County, Community Care at Lake Superior Hospice and the Brain and Spine Center at Marquette General Hospital.

Ruth A. Almén, LMSW, is the Regional Director of the Alzheimer’s Association in Upper Michigan.  She says, “We know that, generally speaking, they are folks who don’t seek out a lot of medical treatment right away. A lot of people don’t get diagnosed early – let alone those who do get diagnosed aren’t necessarily connected to services, or it’s really hard to share with people that they have been diagnosed. A lot of them, their family and friends may not even know at this point.”

The program focuses on a variety of issues facing families of Alzheimer’s patients, ranging from nutrition to stress and fatigue to handling grief.