What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s Disease is a neurodegenative disease that impairs memory and cognitive function. Currently, about 5.4 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s Disease, and with the aging American population, this number is projected to quadruple by 2050. Alzheimer’s disease can be devestating for patients, and also for the families and caregivers who care for their loved ones living the disease. Although research is currently being done to cure Alzheimer’s, it remains the only leading cause of death in the US that cannot be prevented, cured, or even slowed. We believe that until a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease is found, we have a societal responsibility to work to alleviate the burden of the disease on patients, families and caregivers.
What is Harvard College Alzheimer’s Buddies (HCAB)?
Harvard College Alzheimer’s Buddies (HCAB) is a student organization responding to the profound isolation and social disengagement experienced by people in the intermediate-to-late-stages of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We build meaningful emotional connections with dementia residents during weekly one-on-one visits. We focus on what is still present in our buddies and improving the life that they have despite limitations. We currently visit patients at the Hebrew Senior Life Rehabilitation Center in Roslindale, MA (HSL), though we are looking to expand to other facilities.
Why do we do the work we do?
For buddies. Our committed volunteers develop friendships through our regular visits. We arrive with energy, a loving smile, and a caring touch, wanting to really know our buddies beyond their diagnosis.
For family. We hope that the time we spend with our buddies gives families some peace of mind, that their loved one is able to have some human interaction and build a friendship in what is often a more solitary stage of life.
For students. We develop friendships through their regular visits. We learn from our buddies– from stories of their past, their words of advice, and the experience of growing close to someone from another generation.
For staff. We hope that the time we spend with our buddies takes some of the burden off of HSL staff, who have many patients under their care.
We are devoted to expanding and bringing our program to other Boston and MA-area schools. A chapter has already been established at Gordon College, and we hope that new chapters will be established at other local universities within the coming years. Please contact us if you are interested in starting a chapter of Alzheimer’s Buddies buddies at your college!
We are modeled after the Eleanor Robbins Program started 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 demonstrated that trained youth can be extremely effective in improving the mood and responsiveness of patients.
We launched during September 2011 with 10 initial volunteers as a new Harvard student organization visiting Hebrew Senior Life Rehabilitation (HSL) in Roslindale, MA. By the spring we grew to 24 volunteers and became affiliated with the Phillips Brooks House Association—an umbrella student-run non-profit organization based at Harvard College. Mrs. Robin Stewart, Dr. Ruth Kandel, and Dr.Zaldy Tan were instrumental as mentors and in implementing the program at Hebrew SeniorLife.
After being featured in the Boston Globe in May 2012, we received messages from both nursing home officials and concerned family members of Alzheimer’s victims asking if we could bring the program to their area. Although we are limited geographically, this website is meant to be a resource to Alzheimer’s advocates and students at other universities interested in starting a new chapter. If you are interested, please do not hesitate to contact us; we would love to work with you.