In recognition of National AmeriCorps Week, AmeriCorps member Simone Blake explains her work with the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
I’m serving as a healthy nutrition and aging educator at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center through AmeriCorps’ Healthy Communities Corps. Its mission is to improve food quantity and quality in underserved communities across Chicago and Cook County.
The AmeriCorps program engages over 80,000 men and women in intensive service to tackle pressing problems each year, through thousands of nonprofits, schools, public agencies and community and faith-based groups across the country.
Everyone should have opportunities to reach positive health outcomes. Aging adults in our current fast food nation find themselves stranded. They need fiber and nutrient-dense foods when only high-calorie, low-nutrient foods are available.
By Celine Thum
My first patient encounter was not in medical school. It was during college, when I was required to play violin at the geriatric psychiatry lounge as part of a course called “Music as Medicine.”
The audience was not my usual: patients half-asleep in chairs, nurses running between rooms, and rounding residents discussing treatment plans. Unsure of what to expect from my “music as medicine” session, I ignored the seemingly uninterested audience and began to play.
During my performance, I was interrupted by a patient. We briefly conversed about music, family and her past experiences. After the session, I was informed by the resident that the patient that I had interacted with had been belligerent, incomprehensible and hostile for weeks with no sign of improvement. The resident was astonished by the improvement of the patient’s dementia after my session. My experience was the first time the patient was socially acceptable since admittance. By listening to music, the patient could recall family members and distant events, and hold a conversation.
Each month, several Alzheimer’s disease patients and their family members gather at St. Peter’s Church in Elmhurst for Without Warning, a support group for people with younger-onset Alzheimer’s.
“When we typically think about Alzheimer’s we think about people who are in their 70s and 80s,” says Susan Frick, a social worker with the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, “but there is this group of people who are under the age of 65.”
“The mission of Without Warning is to give a voice to people with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease,” says Anna Treinkman, an advanced practice nurse with the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center. “We at Rush started this with the impetus from people who are younger, who didn’t feel that they had any connection when they would go to support groups that were stricly for Alzheimer’s disease — a lot of older people — and they had nothing in common with them.”
Participants take immense comfort in the monthly gatherings.
“I really look forward to coming on Thursday,” says one Without Warning participant, whose husband has Alzheimer’s disease. ”I just think it’s really healthy to come to terms with the disease. I learn more about it, I learn more about myself. I just don’t feel like I’m alone, which is how I feel most of the time.”
By Susan Frick
Every month for many years, I have had the wonderful opportunity to listen to an amazing group of people. Their knowledge and insights have taught me about living while facing some of life’s most difficult challenges.
Sponsored by the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, this monthly group is for people living with younger onset Alzheimer’s disease (diagnosed under the age of 65). Our group, called Without Warning, is for both the person experiencing memory problems and the family members or friends who are also on this journey. We meet to talk about how to live gracefully with Alzheimer’s. We talk about the difficulties, but also the triumphs. I’m one of the several staff people who help coordinate this growing and vital program.
As you can imagine, having Alzheimer’s disease at such a young age is often unexpected and can be an overwhelming experience. These individuals describe Alzheimer’s as feeling like they have fallen into a pit and can’t find the way out. They talk about feeling disconnected from people who are right around them. They talk about a tired feeling they have never felt before. And, they talk about realizing that they are not the same spouse, parent, child or friend. Continue reading
By Raj Shah, MD
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. When I was younger, I always looked forward to all the excellent food my mother would make for Thanksgiving dinner. Since my appetite for food is not quite what it was when I was a teenager, I have come to value sharing the day at home with family and friends. However, I admit that the food still is a close second.
Over the last nine years, I have been blessed to be able to spend my working days with another family — the dedicated and caring team members of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center. The RADC is passionate about finding ways to provide education, research and clinical care for memory loss. As a team, we are invited into the homes of many of our research participants and their families to conduct clinical studies on memory and aging. All of us realize the need to advance science to prevent, delay or slow down symptoms associated with conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. However, what sustains us through the ups and downs of scientific work are the relationships we have built through the hours shared with our research participants.
So this Thanksgiving, I would like to give thanks to all the individuals and families who have carved out time to participate in studies at the RADC. You are a part of our family. You are all very special. You have given an important gift to help others now and in the future. Without each and every one of you, we would not have learned as much about how memory changes with age. We also would not have learned as much about what interventions may help in reducing the suffering associated with conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Continue reading