Dementia Patients and Inner City Teens: Friendship
People experiencing dementia, even those with loving family members nearby, are often bored, frightened, and agitated. Rarely do they get enough socialization. An April 14, 2010, Chicago Tribune article by Ted Gregory, Elderly Dementia Patients and “At-risk” Students Create Friendships, describes a successful activity in Chicago that builds relationships between teens and elderly people living with dementia. Sponsored by the Memory Bridge Foundation, the program encourages young participants to help their elderly friends communicate and share memories. In the process students increase self-esteem and confidence while discovering that their new friends have intact personalities and memories to share.
The Memory Bridge mission, its programs, and its video, There Is A Bridge, are dedicated to helping people — those with a family member experiencing dementia and those who merely fear it — to understand how the essence of each person endures far longer than even many experts imagine.
The foundation’s web site features information, suggestions, video clips, a description of their classroom service learning activities, and four pages of dementia resources for family members and friends. Memory Bridge validates what my husband and I, unknowingly, tried to do with his mother as dementia encroached on her life.
People who have experienced this terrible disease in family members are told that dementia takes away a person’s identity — the essence of the person. I have heard it, and I have said it. Over and over we hear that an individual loses passion, purpose, and personality; however, in our journey with Mother’s dementia we did not find that to be true.
On this blog I’ve written about the things we did — the songs we sang, the jokes we told, the pictures we looked at, the Broadway musicals we acted out. Mother lost a lot — the ability to know how to do things, an understanding of how to use tools and implements, the ability to move a fork or spoon up to her mouth. Even swallowing became difficult, and she slept a lot at the end. We know we were fortunate to have so many good memories, fleeting as they were at the end, to share for so long.
Three past blogs that describe our experiences with Mother’s memories.