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Meeting A Critical Need

Program engages patients with memory disorders 

Paul Smith

Paul Smith has always liked to stay busy.

After a long career in sales, he found a profession he truly loved: repairing bicycles in a small shop in Haverhill. When the shop closed, Paul was devastated. He was out of work, and finding a new job would be difficult because he was also experiencing more symptoms of early onset Alzheimer’s disease, which he had been diagnosed with several years earlier at age 54.

“Paul had nowhere to go; he was lost,” said his wife, Maryann Smith. “He was in a shell. He rarely talked.”

Through a support group, Maryann learned about Spectrum Adult Day Health, which has locations in Beverly and North Andover. The program uses therapeutic activities to keep individuals with memory disorders active and encourage socialization. While services can’t slow or halt disease progression, they can reduce stress, provide fulfillment and minimize challenging behaviors so that participants and families can enjoy life together.

Staff members work with each patient to design individualized activities. Patients with early onset Alzheimer’s disease – like Paul – have distinct needs so that customized care is extremely important, said North Andover Program Director Brooke Wilson.

“These people are more physically fit than those who experience onset later. In many cases, not long before they come to us, they were working or mowing their lawns,” she said. “For these patients, we need to design rewarding activities that allow them to feel successful but are also safe.”

Paul began attending the North Andover program two days a week, then three, and eventually five. Because of his love for handy work, he keeps busy with small woodworking projects, painting and furniture refinishing at a small workbench that the program bought for him. He has helped to build a decorative fence and even some seasonal crafts.

“He’s so proud of the things he does there,” Maryann said.