Alzheimer’s Buddies

PBHA's Harvard College Alzheimer's Buddies responds to the isolation experienced by people with Alzheimer's disease through weekly one-on-one visits with dementia patients.

Application Information:

Please contact the program at alzheimhersbuddies@pbha.org for more information about volunteering.

Student Director Contact Information:

Brenda Chiang, Shreya Mathur, Keyuree Satam & Ellen Zhang

alzheimersbuddies@pbha.org

Staff Contact Information:

Kerry McGowan

kerry@pbha.org

617-495-3684

PBHA’s Harvard College Alzheimer’s Buddies (HCAB) responds to the profound isolation and social disengagement experienced by people in the intermediate-to-late-stages of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Volunteers build meaningful emotional connections with dementia residents during weekly one-on-one visits, focusing on what is still present in their buddies and improving the life that they have despite limitations. HCAB currently visit patients at the Hebrew Senior Life Rehabilitation Center in Roslindale, Massachusetts.

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.

Why do this work?

For buddies. HCAB’s committed volunteers develop friendships through their regular visits. Volunteers arrive with energy, a loving smile, and a caring touch, wanting to really know their buddies beyond their diagnosis.

For family. HCAB hopes that the time spends with the 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. Volunteers develop friendships through their regular visits. Volunteers learn from their buddies– from stories of their past, their words of advice, and the experience of growing close to someone from another generation.

For staff. HCAB hopes that the time spent with the buddies takes some of the burden off of professional staff, who have many patients under their care.

Future Directions

HCAB is devoted to expanding and bringing its program to other Boston and Massachusetts area schools. A chapter has already been established at Gordon College. Please contact HCAB if you are interested in starting a chapter of Alzheimer’s Buddies buddies at your college!

Volunteer with Harvard College Alzheimer’s Buddies

What HCAB looks for in a volunteer:

  • Commitment to visit with his/her buddy every week and record the experience in a weekly journal
  • Willingness to learn about dementia (the program provides an initial orientation and continue with training throughout the year)
  • Ability to adapt to unfamiliar social situations
  • Patience and energy when engaging with buddies and staff
  • Creativity in developing solutions to respond to a buddy’s dementia symptoms
  • Willingness to discuss his/her experience and thoughts with other volunteers and advisors

Visit alzheimersbuddies.org to learn more.

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