LuAnn Lundquist | When There’s Nowhere to Turn
On a sunny day, LuAnn Lundquist and her husband moved her husband’s parents across the street from their home in Phoenix, Arizona. Her father-in-law had developed dementia and her mother-in-law’s health was declining due to type I diabetes. Soon after, her mother-in-law passed away, leaving LuAnn and her family to take care of the now widowed father-in-law.
“His memory was declining dramatically,” LuAnn remarked. “He didn’t know how to cook or clean. He would take his truck and get lost. Soon we had to move him in with us.”
LuAnn quit her job to take care of her father-in-law as his memory deteriorated. It was a difficult and taxing time for her and her family. This event is what inspired her to work as the Executive Director of Memory Matters Utah, a nonprofit that provides services, education, and activities to those with dementia and their caregivers.
After a previous organization serving this community closed its doors five years ago, LuAnn and her husband decided to start Memory Matters Utah with her own savings and additional funding provided by generous community members who wish to remain anonymous.
“It was really scary,” LuAnn laughed. “But we’re the only resource. We’re it.”
Twenty-three percent of the total population in Southern Utah are in the retired age range, those 60 and above. LuAnn said one out of eight in that population will develop some kind of memory loss condition. As of now, Memory Matters Utah is the only local organization that provides the type of assistance they do.
“They can call a national organization in Chicago, but they won’t be getting the local help they need,” LuAnn said.
Memory Matters provides support groups, activities, and education to those with a memory loss condition as well as the caregivers. Often times, it’s the caregivers that come through the doors that need the most help.
“There’s no end date,” LuAnn remarked. “They’ve joined a club that no one really wants to join. They’re frustrated, scared, and tired. They don’t know what to do.”
LuAnn is proud to say how much the community has supported Memory Matters Utah with volunteer time and donations. She noted one couple who had been caregivers to a loved one. Although they are no longer caregivers, they continue to come to the Memory Matters Support Group, offer support to other caregivers, fundraise in the community, and provide furniture and supplies for the office.
LuAnn noted that the real impact Memory Matters has is on the individual people in our community. She recalls one day making a phone call to a couple in an isolated region. The husband had early onset dementia and the wife a medical condition. It had snowed on a weekend and when the volunteer made their daily call to this couple on Tuesday, they found out their pipes had froze and no running water for days. The wife had been shoveling snow to melt for drinking water and for baths.
The volunteer immediately called a church in a nearby community who rallied a few people to shovel snow out of their driveway and take them to get emergency help.
“She was so grateful,” LuAnn said. “Now whenever we call she has a smile on her face because of all those people who helped her and her husband.”