A unique new program developed by the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center at Northwestern University and the Council for Jewish Elderly enables persons with early-stage Alzheimer's disease to participate in innovative activities involving Chicago's rich cultural environment.
The "Culture Bus" offers the program's 11 older adults and three staff members five supervised visits to museums, nature centers and restaurants. The six-hour day program includes transportation, a museum visit with docents providing a personalized group tour, and lunch.
Participants have toured the DuSable Museum of African-American History, the Chicago Historical Society, and the butterfly exhibit at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Upcoming trips include the Spertus Museum, on October 22, and the Chicago Cultural Center, on November 5.
"This program provides a highly stimulating environment that helps participants trigger memories and retain skills at their highest level," said Hedy Ciocci, director of Dementia and Adult Day Services of the Council for Jewish Elderly.
"Many group participants are well-educated professionals with a love of culture and history, and they wanted to continue to immerse themselves in the many cultural opportunities Chicago has to offer. They also strongly believe that it's important to remain active and not give up—there's a lot of life left to live—Alzheimer's disease or not," said Darby Mohardt, director of education for the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center.
Due to lack of services and programs for those in the early stages of Alzheimer's and other dementias, the Culture Bus is a welcome opportunity to remain active by learning new things, having fun, and making and deepening friendships, Morhardt said.
The Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center has sponsored an early-stage support group for individuals with Alzheimer's disease and their families since 1997. Although it began as a structured, time-limited, eight-session program, the group was continued at the request of several participants who had found the opportunity to meet others with similar problems to be a helpful experience. The group has continued to meet, with natural changes in membership, since 1998.
Currently, 12–15 participants attend the early-stage memory loss support group every Monday afternoon. This group has shared with each other the pain of the losses they are experiencing and the relief to know they are not alone, Morhardt said.
"A typical group is often punctuated with humor and a strong sense of cohesion and camaraderie," she said.
For information on these and other programs and services of the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center, call 312/695-2343 or 312/695-9627 for a clinic evaluation.