Class Notes Profiles
In Mom’s memory
What put Ruth Hovland, Sp ’69, on this path?
By Nicole Sweeney Etter
Ruth Hovland remembers discovering the little note card hidden under the velvet in her mother’s jewelry box. It was a cheat sheet to help her mother remember the names of her children.
By the time Hovland discovered it, her mother had already passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. Fifteen years later, Hovland still gets choked up talking about it.
“She made this slow-motion exit off this earth,” she says. “Her journey really changed the trajectory of my life.”
Once a theatre and communication instructor at Marquette, Hovland now directs the Memory Care Program at Clement Manor retirement community in Greenfield, Wis. In 2007, she was named Professional of the Year by the Alzheimer’s Association of Wisconsin.
Motivated by her mother, Hovland started as a certified nursing assistant in a nursing home.
“I decided to use the communication strengths that God gave me and use them to help people understand this disease,” she says.
When she was in her 40s, she decided to get an R.N. degree to give her more legitimacy in the field. “It was absolutely the bravest thing I’d ever done in my life because I started all over in a new discipline,” she says.
At Clement Manor, she facilitates support groups, trains staff and designs nonpharmacological treatment plans for patients with memory loss. She knows firsthand the joy families feel when a spark of a patient’s former self returns, if only for a second. And she’s optimistic about the future.
“There is new research continually going on that gives all of us hope that this disease will one day be managed just like cancer or diabetes,” she says.