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Alzheimer's Care Camp
By Jeanne Kessler
(Page 1 of 2)

Teens are busy. Whether itís soccer practice, piano lessons or a scout meeting, teens are on the go. So when I developed a program known as Care Camp, a four-hour workshop specifically designed for teens to learn about Alzheimerís disease and spend some time visiting Alzheimerís residents, the response was small.

Perhaps the lack of participation was due to the fact that Alzheimerís disease is associated with aging rather than youth. Knowing however, that 10 percent of our population over the age of 65 is afflicted with this disease, I figured there must be some teens out there with grandparents or great grandparents who were affected. The few teens who did respond to an invitation from the Alzheimerís Association, Greater Dallas Chapter, to attend Care Camp last Fall, all had relatives with the disease. The teens seemed to appreciate learning more about Alzheimerís disease, as well as the opportunity to connect with other youth who were going through similar circumstances. I have since started a support group for these teens and we meet once a month for a fun activity, and just take time to share.

I still, however, continued to struggle with the issue of wanting to involve more teens in this learning experience. I realized that the teens were not the only ones to benefit from their interaction with people who have Alzheimerís disease. It seemed that the residents within the nursing home setting who participated in the intergenerational activities had a positive experience as well. Activities such as a ball toss or a craft project were enhanced by the presence of young people. The youth could chase the ball when it went out of bounds. If a resident couldnít actually do the craft project, she didnít seem to mind watching the youngster color or paint and give advice as to which colors to choose. A young person visiting someone with Alzheimerís disease can trigger fond memories of a time in that personís life when he or she had young children to interact with and to care for.

Having two young teens of my own with busy schedules, I realized that one way to engage teens was to meet them through an activity in which they were already involved. Thus, the idea of an Alzheimerís Awareness Patch to be earned by Girl Scouts was developed.

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