Thorne McFarlane is a former assistant editor for Associations Now.
Alzheimer’s Association chapter fosters social connections for patients and caregivers through its new Community Connect program.
The Greater Michigan Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association is finding ways to get people with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers active in the community.
The chapter’s Community Connect program, launched in May, plans outings for those suffering from the disease. The program works with organizations in the Detroit metropolitan area, such as the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, to design unique experiences for participants.
Community Connect Manager Anne O’Rear says many friendships have been formed through the program. Alzheimer’s disease is “really a journey,” she says. “Being able to connect with others who are going through a similar experience to what they’re going through is really powerful.”
From reminiscence therapy to culinary tours, Community Connect activities are designed to reduce isolation, stress, and anxiety. Art, culture, and music are incorporated into the programming to keep participants socially engaged. “It’s really about finding specific things that we feel our participants will connect with,” says O’Rear. “I want them to come enjoy whatever experience we’re having together that day.”
In addition to providing socialization opportunities for patients, the program helps community organizations learn more about the disease. “It’s powerful on both sides,” O’Rear says. “It’s a really unique education experience for the community.”
Kristin Rossi, the chapter’s vice president of development and communications, says the goal is to continue growing the program by forging new partnerships and encouraging others in the community to get involved.
“I’d like to see more institutions get on board and have dementia-friendly programming, so that until we have a world without Alzheimer’s, we have an Alzheimer’s-friendly world for them to participate in,” she says.
[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Breaking Through Isolation."]