Imagine you were 15 years old and you had to help your mother shower and get dressed every morning. This is a reality for many teenagers who have a parent with early-onset dementia.
On July 15 at the Madonna Catholic Secondary School, a group of grade nine girls gathered to learn about dementia from Esther Atemo, a public educator at the Alzheimer Society of Toronto. The goal was to help students walk away with more empathy towards people in their community impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. Serena Granzotto, teacher at the school, organized the day.
During her presentation, Esther explained how the brain functions, drawing the students in with questions. You could tell students were proud they knew the answers. “What is the part of the brain responsible for movement?” Esther asked. “The cerebrum,” a few students shouted out.
The students were shocked to see how the brain deteriorated from Alzheimer’s disease. The emotional impact was further heightened after watching a heartbreaking video from a young caregiver’s perspective.
Afterwards, the students participated in an Aging Simulation, which involved wearing special tools, like fogged glasses, to mimic the physical symptoms of aging. The students had to complete a series of tasks, including making a phone call, eating, or putting a jacket on.
One student said, “It was annoying to have to depend on people to help me.” Another girl chimed in, “I learned not to judge other people and to try to understand what they might be going through.”
For more information, check out When dementia is in the house, a great resource to help teens understand the impact of dementia on the family.
Interested in having a public educator come talk to your organization about Alzheimer’s disease? Visit our website for more information or contact us at 416-322-6560.
Article by B.Herscovitch