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Local Teen Pens Book to Help Kids Understand Dementia

By Amy Melin

For Edie Weinstein, the path to becoming a children’s book author started with a visit to a nursing home in second grade. The 15-year old recalls how nervous she was to visit the facility where people with dementia lived. She wasn’t sure what to say or how to act. Years later, in seventh grade, armed with new storytelling skills and a strong desire to help, Edie wrote a children’s book about dementia, Grandpa and Lucy, that’s now making a big impact in her community.

A connection to Saint Paul Neighborhoods ACT on Alzheimer’s (SPN ACT) got things started for Edie. She attended one of the group’s Dementia Friends workshops, which teaches people about what dementia is, how it affects people and how to interact with someone with dementia. SPN ACT’s Meghan Constantini explains, “A dementia friend is somebody of any age who spends one hour learning a little bit about dementia. We have five key messages about dementia. We talk about what a dementia friendly community looks like and most importantly offer some tips on communicating with people with dementia and how to access resources if you're impacted by dementia.” The Dementia Friends initiative was created by the Alzheimer’s Society in the United Kingdom.

Becoming a Dementia Friend made a big difference in Edie’s life in a number of ways. Meghan Constantini says, “[Edie] just recently shared that after becoming a Dementia Friend, she went back and visited a nursing home again and she was less afraid. She said, ‘I really know how to communicate now much more easily than before I became a dementia friend.’”

In addition to feeling more comfortable around people with dementia, her connection to SPN ACT led directly to Grandpa and Lucy getting published. As she describes in the video above, Meghan Constantini was very impressed by Edie’s book and became a champion for the project. She started by connecting with ACT on Alzheimer’s to get approval. Meghan says, “We just wanted to make sure we were crossing our t's and dotting our i's with the content. We got full blessings not just from ACT on Alzheimer's in Minnesota, but from Dementia Friends and the Alzheimer's Society in the United Kingdom. And not only did they say, yes, use this information freely in the book, but they also had a content expert review the information and said that anybody who reads this book will essentially become a Dementia Friend.”

Meghan connected Edie with partners who helped with the book’s layout and getting it professionally printed. Edie says, “I didn't think it was going to actually get published. I thought I was going to be a photocopy sort of thing and it was so thrilling to have it actually published. I never get tired of seeing my book online”

Edie completed the book as part of her Silver Award for Girl Scouts. The award is given to girls who complete a project that focuses on a local issue and allows them to work with a leader in their community and show leadership skills themselves.

The book has been a big boost for Edie personally. “It's allowed me to get a lot more practice public speaking and allowed me to share my views with a wider audience. ACT on Alzheimer’s has been using my book in curriculum for second to sixth graders. And my book is available at a couple libraries as part of a memory kit that can be checked out and brought home.” The project has also connected Edie to other dementia-related organizations such as Giving Voice Chorus, which invited Edie to write a blog post for its website.

You can learn more about Edie’s book on her website.

Minnesota Music: Cloud Cult
Production Team: Amy Melin, Michael Phillips

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This story is made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.

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