Nasher Museum helps Alzheimer’s patients, caretakers ‘live in the moment’

More than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease and that number is expected to triple by 2050.

The memory disorder also is the only disease of the top 10 deadliest without a cure, way to prevent it or even a way to slow it down.

But Duke University is working to help Alzheimer’s patients — and their families who often serve as their caretakers — to live in the moment through sharing art.

“Great, great,” Jessica Ruhle said in response to a member of her tour group at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

“Yeah, they’re all subtly different,” she said turning back to the exhibit.

Ruhle is an associate curator at the museum and once a month she gives a “Reflections” tour.

The 30 or so people on the tour are paired: one Alzheimer’s patient with his or her caretaker.

They discuss the art, learn about it and even try their hands at reproducing it a classroom setting.

“Having them paired together really offers that opportunity to just have a normalizing experience, something outside of doctor’s visits and appointments that can really quickly become the life of a family with Alzheimer’s,” Ruhle explained.

And she knows just how important that is.

Ruhle’s grandfather experienced Alzheimer’s.

She watched her grandmother be his sole caretaker for a decade before he passed away two years ago from complications with the disease.

Now through this program she started one year ago, Ruhle is watching loved ones come together — if, but for a moment.

When asked what she gets out of these tours, her response is quick.

“Everything. These are my favorite tours to give,” Ruhle said beaming. “The interactions between care partners and the visitors with Alzheimer’s. The joy.

“Earlier this morning, the galleries were full of laughter. The amount of fun that people were having just makes it all worthwhile.”

Right now, the program is in partnership with the Duke Family Support Program, but the museum plans to expand offering the tours to the community this summer.

Click here to learn more about the support program, which provides information, care tips and groups for families facing memory disorders.

More information on how to support Nasher’s “Reflections” tours can be found here.

Copyright 2015 WNCN. All rights reserved.

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