AlzU Blog

College Students Learn About Alzheimer’s Disease (Part 2)

Learning About Alzheimer’s Disease

Once the students are selected for the Art to Life course, they must engage in some education about Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and dementia.  Each college student is required to undergo what is called a “Virtual Dementia Tour.”  The tour provides a simulation of the experience of someone who has Alzheimer’s disease.  Students must also attend lectures and participate in class discussion on the topic of “patient-centered care.”  Patient-centered care involves listening to, informing and involving patients in their own care. 

Other learning objectives that students must meet include:

•Interacting appropriately with senior adults
•Making good eye contact with the people who have AD
•Avoiding any sudden or fast movements that could startle people with dementia
•Appropriate terminology to use (such as acceptable terms for bowel and bladder function)

Maggie Holmes, student facilitator for the Art to Life program, said that the class is “a way to directly impact people’s lives.”  Maggie is a pre-med major in her junior year. She initially got involved in the program because her grandmother had Alzheimer’s diesease. 

As a student facilitator, Maggie works with the program’s co-founder, Dr. Potts, to interview and select students for the course.  She also schedules the art therapy classes that people in the community (who have Alzheimer’s) will be taking—as part of the course.  She said, “It is a beautiful thing to see the relationships grow between the students and the participants.” Maggie describes the course as “unique” and calls the experience a “huge opportunity to grow as a person and enrich your life.”

The course is said to have had an impact on over one hundred Honors students and many other people in the community with AD.

The Need for Programs Such as Art for Life

As a pre-med student, Maggie feels that getting involved in community projects is an important part of her career goals.  She stated, A doctor should understand the needs of the community.” Although there are many service type programs offered at Alabama University, most involve children and NOT adults with special needs.  Maggie feels that programs such as Art for Life are “much needed” in her community of Tuscaloosa. 


The students who are involved in the Art for Life program come from many different walks of life, and from a variety of majors—although many are majoring in various health care fields. Maggie feels that no matter what a person’s career track is, everyone can learn something from the experience of taking the course. 

When asked in an interview, what she has learned from the Art to Life program, Maggie responded that, she had never realized what a huge impact Alzheimer’s has on the family members.  “You never know what stresses other people are under, and through this experience, she has “learned how to be more accommodating to caregivers,” Maggie concludes.

Getting involved in a program that educates college students about Alzheimer’s disease, has major benefits for students, and for the community.  Not only can students learn about how to reduce their own risk of the disease, they can also learn about how to support people who are diagnosed with AD, as well as learning about their family members.

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