Editor’s Note: For this Weekly InSight, the Communications team decided to hand the post over to Olivia Bernal, a Time Out volunteer. We hope you enjoy the switch and gain another perspective of the work we do here at the PMC.
When I get to John’s* house, he’s already set up on the couch, a stack of colorful games and puzzles out on the table before him. We settle on Bingo. He asks about my weekend, and I take out my phone to show him photos of my dogs at the park. He smiles and reminisces about the dog he had in New Orleans. The visit is nearly identical to the one three days prior, but John either doesn’t remember or doesn’t mind. John has Alzheimer’s disease and requires near-constant supervision. He is pleasant and easygoing, enjoying games, music, and walks around the neighborhood during visits. He also frequently overestimates his abilities, requiring a watchful eye and nearby assistance.
I am a volunteer for Time Out, a program sponsored by the Temple University Intergenerational Center and the Penn Memory Center that places students in the homes of older adults with dementia to provide respite care for their caregivers. John’s wife is his primary caregiver, but my visits give her a few hours to run errands, work, or simply have some time to herself.
Caregiving for a loved one with dementia is an emotionally, physically, and financially taxing job. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, last year nearly 16.2 million family members and friends provided more than 18 billion hours of unpaid care to people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Many caregivers must pull back from work or quit entirely. As their time becomes filled with caregiving responsibilities, the time they have to maintain their own health and well-being is reduced. Sadly, many caregivers experience poorer health as a result.
Time Out seeks to reduce caregiver burden while providing persons with Alzheimer’s meaningful companionship. As a medical and public health student planning to have a career in geriatrics, I was intrigued by this program. It seemed like a natural fit to have college-aged students go into the community to help people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Students have the opportunity to learn from older adults while gaining exposure to dementia and its effects on families. Time Out puts a face to and humanizes what can be a scary and isolating disease.
John and I have discussed everything from his career as a ship captain to his love of gardening roses. He has given me advice on personal and professional matters and taught me how to play dominoes. I like to think he enjoys the time we spend together, and I feel glad to be able to provide a service that allows his wife to have time free of worry or guilt.
As Time Out continues to grow and expand, volunteers who join will find that spending time with older adults with dementia is incredibly rewarding. They will certainly gain as much as they give.
Families who would like to sign up or learn more should contact Alison Lynn, MSW, LCSW, at 215-360-0257 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Students who would like to sign up or learn more should contact Roynell Sanders at email@example.com.
*John is a pseudonym to protect the privacy of our Time Out participant.
More about the author: Olivia Bernal is a MD-MPH student graduating this month. She will be starting internal medicine-primary care residency at Johns Hopkins-Bayview. She plans to have a career in geriatrics. She volunteered for Time Out as part of her public health fieldwork.
We’re seeking a Clinical Research Coordinator A to support the research and administrative activities of the Penn Program on Precision Medicine for the Brain, led by Jason Karlawish, MD, and a team of faculty collaborators and research staff. This group examines the ethical, legal, and social issues related to the aging brain with a particular focus on Alzheimer’s disease. Current research focuses on understanding the experiences of individuals with ‘pre-clinical’ Alzheimer’s disease and the social and cultural transformations of Alzheimer’s disease. For more information and to apply, click here.
Dance for Health, a free weekly dance class for older adults, has returned to the Ralston Center. It’s held Saturdays until May 11 (excluding April 20) at 3615 Chestnut Street. The program is open to all adults 55 or older. To RSVP, contact Terrence Casey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-898-9979.
The National Alzheimer’s and Dementia Resource Center is hosting a webinar series, sponsored by the Administration for Community Living. One of the presentations, titled “The Messages We Send: Stigma Toward Persons Living with Dementia and How to End It,” will be led by PMC scholar Shana Stites, PsyD, MA, MS and Rev. Cynthia Huling Hummel, D.Min., who is living with early stage dementia. Participants will be able to describe and define types of stigma around dementia, describe and give examples of the role of language in stigma around dementia, define what it means to use a strength-based approach with persons who have dementia, and list three examples of person-centered language to counter stigma around dementia. The presentation is on Tuesday, May 7 at 2 p.m. ET. It’s free and open to the public, but registration is required. The next Memory Café will be held on Friday, May 17 from 10:30 a.m. to noon at Christ Church Neighborhood House in Old City. Svitanya, an Eastern European women’s vocal group, will be performing. Memory Café is exclusively for people with memory problems, including Alzheimer’s disease, and their partners/families. The program is free. Please RSVP to Alison Lynn at 215-360-0257 or email@example.com. All 2019 dates are posted here.
PMC Co-Director Jason Karlawish, MD, will be holding a free discussion on how your lifestyle affects your brain as you age. Learn what activities are effective in protecting your brain health and how and when to do them. It will be held on Monday, May 20 from noon to 1 p.m. at the Ralston Wellness Center, 3615 Chestnut St. The program and lunch are free, though registration is required. To RSVP, call 215-386-2984 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The PMC Communications Team
Terrence Casey, Joyce Lee, Janissa Delzo, Linnea Langkammer, and Sharnita Midgett