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We Need to Encourage More Interaction Between Young People and Alzheimer’s Patients – BOTH WILL BENEFIT!

Posted Feb 21 2011 8:41am
There is a major need out there to get young people involved in spending time with Alzheimer’s patients, and BOTH will benefit.
By Max Wallack
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Having read Bob’s article about the mutual benefits to youth and Alzheimer’s patients that results from time spent together, I decided to do a bit of research and find some programs where young people are working directly with Alzheimer's patients. We certainly need MANY MORE such programs!

Programs Exist at Many Medical Schools. Here are a few:

The Buddy Program at Northwestern University Medical School

This program matches first year medical school students with patients diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease. Students take a 3-hour course on "Alzheimer’s communication skills training." They agree to spend at least 4 hours a month with their buddy.

Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center

The purpose of the PAIRS program is
  • To educate medical students about Alzheimer’s disease and related cognitive impairment.
  • To familiarize students with the care and support related issues confronted by Alzheimer’s patients and their families.
  • To improve student communication skills when interacting with individuals with cognitive impairment.
  • To introduce students to research and career opportunities in geriatrics, neurology, and related fields.
  • To provide individuals with Alzheimer’s and related cognitive impairment with the opportunity for informal interaction with a medical student.

National Youth Leadership Forum at Baylor College of Medicine

"The Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center (ADMDC) serves as an educational site for high school students interested in careers in medicine, patient care, and medical research.”

The following programs are for Students.

At the Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation , teens shadow health care professionals. Stephanie DePalma, Director of Programs and Services, says
“We were really excited to show Andrew and Alex what a positive effect recreational therapy has on our Alzheimer’s community.” You can read more about this program here.

A video of Korean High School Students and Alzheimer’s Care shows how South Korea is training thousands of people, including children, to be dementia supporters.

Students at Darton College in Albany GA volunteer in the Albany Outreach Center’s Alzheimer’s Caregiver’s Time Out Program. What a great idea!!

Some Programs Exist for Younger Students.

In Cleveland OH, Dr. Peter Whitehouse and his wife, Cathy, founded an inner-city Charter School called The Intergenerational School . Here young students work with older volunteers, including many who have Alzheimer’s disease.

A program called Camp Building Bridges was founded by a 13 year old girl. She runs a summer camp teaching kids how to care for a parent or grandparent with Early Onset Dementia.

At Salmon Health and Retirement Centers , they have a special "Tapestry Program" for Alzheimer’s patients, an Adult Day Care program, and the Salmon Center for Early Education all under one roof. The preschool children regularly interact with the elderly patients. I can only imagine how much pleasure the Alzheimer’s patients receive just watching the children play outdoors.

On the following site, , there are 10 pages of links to programs being initiated to benefit Alzheimer’s patients. These are all by people under the age of 25. Many of these programs are looking for volunteers.

Also, most state Alzheimer’s Association chapters list opportunities for volunteers on their websites.

Often, I receive emails from students who wish to begin programs in their states. Some want to collect puzzles -- like PuzzlesToRemember. Others want to bring puzzles to Alzheimer’s facilities and spend time with the patients. When they contact me, I usually do my best to locate facilities in their area that could benefit from their input. Just this month I received an email from a teacher in Connecticut, interested in collecting puzzles and having her students bring the puzzles to facilities in Connecticut. Here is her what she said
“I am a Sunday School teacher of fourth graders. We are seeking to do something involving kind outreach to people in our community. The class consists of 16 children. I have been collecting money to be used to purchase puzzles and hope to get puzzles donated from a drive. I have been in touch with a local senior facility to indicate the desire to bring puzzles there. I want to be sure that I am doing this within the proper guidelines of your program and to maximize our endeavors. In re-visiting your website from when I had seen it previously, I realized that there is a company who has produced puzzles that are appropriate. I love that idea, as in my thinking the 'theme' of a puzzle can have value in and of itself.”

There is certainly a major need out there to get young people involved in spending time with Alzheimer’s patients, and BOTH will benefit.

Max Wallack is a student at Boston University Academy. His great grandmother, Gertrude, suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Max is the founder of PUZZLES TO REMEMBER. PTR is a project that provides puzzles to nursing homes and veterans institutions that care for Alzheimer's and dementia patients.

Original content Max Wallack, the Alzheimer's Reading Room

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