Topics: College of Communication Information and Media, Immersive Learning, College of Sciences and Humanities

March 1, 2010

When telecommunications professor Maria Williams-Hawkins got the phone call that her friend was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, she knew she had to do something to help.  She knew that her friends in the School of Nursing would help her, too.

That phone call was the catalyst behind "Alzheimer's: Never Forget," a new immersive learning project at Ball State University. The project's goal is to provide better information about the disease for families of Alzheimer's patients and better training for nursing staff who care for Alzheimer's patients. Williams-Hawkins, who works with Kay Hodson-Carlton and Linda Siktberg of the School of Nursing, said the program is in its earliest stages, and that the group is in need of family members to come forward and talk about their lives after learning of a loved one's diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease.

"Alzheimer's: Never Forget" is a two-pronged project. One key area of focus will be the creation of a database of experiences of families and patients as they go through the various stages of Alzheimer's. The second prong is the development of training videos for nursing home employees.

William-Hawkins' class, made up of 15 Ball State students, will produce instructional training videos to help staff from Miller's Health Systems, the course partner, learn how to better care for Alzheimer's patients.

Videos also will be created for the family members of Alzheimer's patients. Some will be testimonials made by family members who volunteer to talk about what they have been through from the moment they learned of their loved one's diagnosis to the present day. Five families will receive keepsake videos as a way to remember their loved ones and allow the Alzheimer's patients to leave messages for them and those to come.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, there is still no cure for the 5.3 million people in the United States living with this degenerative disease. Most patients are taken care of by family members or caregivers in nursing homes. The videos to be made in Williams-Hawkins' class will help relieve some of their stress and to help individuals learn how to handle difficult situations related to the disease.

If you are a family member taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer's disease and are willing to share your story, contact Ashley Harley at 574-952-7050 or Maria Williams-Hawkins at 765-285-2263.

By Samantha Irons