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Today’s Top 10 feature focuses on the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S.: Alzheimer’s disease. According to data from the CDC, more than 83,000 people die from this disease each year.

Because there is not yet a cure for Alzheimer’s disease or a way to prevent it, some Alzheimer’s-related resources and ideas have been dedicated to supporting the more than five million Americans who live with this disease and their more than 15 million care partners. (data source: Alzheimer’s Association)

Because I have been fortunate enough to not have a close family member affected by Alzheimer’s (knock on wood), my very limited exposure to what people and families go through has been through the lens of books, movies or television shows. I am glad to see that same creativity and imagination directed towards community-based programs aimed at helping families with this mysterious and in many ways devastating disease.

Here is an example, a program that uses improvisational theater:

The Northwestern Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center (CNADC) and the Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago, IL developed an innovative approach for improving the quality of life of people with early stage Alzheimer’s and related disorders. They resulting Memory Ensembleis an 8-week intervention using improvisational theatre to provide unique and enriching experiences for individuals with memory loss. According to the CNADC’s website, the first two years of this pilot program yielded promising results.

Here’s another example, “an interactive film program for people with memory loss and their partners:”

The Coolidge Corner Theatre in Boston, MA sponsors a program called ‘Artists for Alzheimer’s,” which created Meet Me at the Coolidge and Make Memories.

Meet Me at the Coolidge…and make memories is a one-of-a-kind film experience, designed specifically for people with memory loss and their care partners. Short clips from classic films will be shown, followed by audience discussion and reminiscence, guided by a moderator.

This program demonstrates how film can be a form of treatment for people with memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The cinema has the power to connect us with our deep-rooted emotional memories–the kind that never leave us.

While these efforts may not prolong life with Alzheimer’s, there is some evidence that they can have a positive impact. As a participant in The Memory Ensemble put it:

I am not sure that my memory has objectively improved, but I’m sure that my ability to cope with memory loss has improved.- 2011 Participant

A Morning Edition story on the Memory Ensemble
Improv for Alzheimer’s: “A Sense of Accomplishment”
By Julianne Hill, August 15, 2011

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