TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – All this month, 8 On Your Side has been highlighting the importance of Alzheimer’s and brain awareness.

A Tampa Bay man says a local program helped his mother out in ways he never thought possible when it comes to brain health. Marc Retzlaff has wonderful memories of his wedding. Memories of moments, months before he tied the knot, he thought may never happen.

“We were trying to make that very difficult decision, is mom coming to the wedding? The answer at that point in time was going to be no,” Retzlaff said.

Retzlaff’s mother, Linda, was diagnosed with dementia and had progressed so much he was contemplating moving her to a memory care facility.

“We didn’t think she’d be capable of even having a nurse looking after her every once in a while,” Retzlaff said.

That is until he met Janet Knupp. Knupp is the CEO of the program called Fit Minds. Knupp’s mother was diagnosed with Lewy Body, a form of dementia. It was that diagnosis that led Knupp to create and launch Fit Minds in the US in late 2016.

According to its website, Fit Minds provides mental stimulation in group and individualized programs for seniors and senior living communities.

“When you have dementia, you can’t exercise your brain, you need the stimulus to come to you,” Knupp said.

This local program helps stimulate five key areas of the brain:

  • Language and Music
  • Visual/Spatial Orientation
  • Memory
  • Critical Thinking
  • Computation

Coaches meet with the patients and have conversations based on their progression. Sometimes it’s a simple conversation. Knupp says it’s all about exercising parts of the brain, almost like physical training.

“It’s why if I were to go take the SAT test today, I would do worse than I’d do as a child because my brain has told me you don’t need to know certain things anymore,” Knupp said.

After weeks of meeting with Fit Minds, Retzlaff’s mom started to improve in ways he never thought possible. While he doesn’t claim it cured his mother of dementia, he believes it reversed some of her symptoms enough to where she could be at the most important day of his life and enjoy it.

“It gave us our mom back for the rest of her life,” Retzlaff said.

His mom has since passed away from complications unrelated to dementia.

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