Alzheimer’s Buddies Volunteer & Research Program
Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating, terminal neurodegenerative disease that impairs memory, motor function, and emotional response. One in eight Americans (an estimated 5.4 million individuals) are currently afflicted with this disease, and their numbers are growing rapidly
. The Alzheimer's Buddies Program
is a response to the profound isolation and social disengagement experienced by people in the intermediate-to-late-stages of Alzheimer's disease (AD). It pairs local students with Alzheimer's buddies so that they might form meaningful relationships over the course of a semester or longer. Our initiative encourages students to take the mindset of a friend rather than of a care provider, to learn about their patients' past and passions, to establish real friendships. This interaction not only provides patients with a unique outlet, but also provides students with a formative experience and formal training on this devastating disease.
Starting in September 2011, the program will be piloted at Hebrew SeniorLife, the long-term care facility affiliated with Harvard Medical School (HMS)
. Staffed by HMS faculty, it is the largest provider of elder care in the Boston area and performs cutting edge research in the field of aging. The initiative is modeled after the Eleanor Robbins Program, established by Jeffrey M. Robbins, LICSW and Eileen Salmanson, LICSW from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Department of Neurology and Harvard Medical School. Working with high school students, the Eleanor Robbins Program has demonstrated that trained youth can be extremely effective in improving the mood and responsiveness of patients. Students enrolling in the program will be part of a clinical research study, a collaboration between Hebrew SeniorLife and the Eleanor Robbins Program, to quantify the impact of a weekly, one hour visit on reducing apathy, depression, and behavioral dyscontrol.
No prior experience is required. Social workers from the Eleanor Robbins Program and Hebrew SeniorLife will provide students with formal training and ongoing support before, during and after their visits. In addition, educational materials will be supplied by the Alzheimer’s Association to ensure that our volunteers are as informed and comfortable as possible.
Each week, our group of volunteers will visit Hebrew SeniorLife in order to see their buddy, one-on-one, for a one hour session. Volunteers will be strongly encouraged to visit their buddies outside of these meetings. In combination with training and reflection sessions, the program will require a minimum of 4 hours per week from each student. If you or someone you know may be interested in applying to join our initiative, please email Ryan Christ firstname.lastname@example.org. Interviews will be held in mid-September.