Memory Bridge Frequently Asked Questions
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
“The brain has 100 billion nerve cells (neurons). Each nerve cell communicates with many others to form networks. Nerve cell networks have special jobs. Some are involved in thinking, learning and remembering. Others help us see, hear and smell. Still others tell our muscles when to move. In Alzheimer’s disease, deposits of protein—plaques and tangles—impair communication among our nerve cell networks. Scientists are not sure exactly where the trouble starts. But backups and breakdowns in the neural network cause problems in mental functioning. As cells die, parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language are impaired.”
-- Alzheimer’s Association
“People with AD may have trouble remembering things that happened recently, or names of people they know. Over time, symptoms get worse. People may not recognize family members or have trouble speaking, reading or writing. They may forget how to brush their teeth or comb their hair. Later on, they may become anxious or aggressive, or wander away from home. Eventually, they need total care. This can cause great stress for family members who must care for them.” -- Medline Plus
Currently, there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, although there are treatments to slow the progression of the disease and to improve cognitive functions.
Memory Bridge: The Foundation for Alzheimer’s and Cultural Memory is a non-profit foundation dedicated to building emotionally meaningful relationships with people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. We also create programs that reveal to the general public the depths of memory and personal presence that Alzheimer’s disease does not erase. Our ultimate goal is to create a global community of people who, like us, are learning to listen to people with dementia for what they have to teach us about our own humanity.
We do what we do because people with Alzheimer’s disease often experience profound loneliness and depression because we cease to communicate with them as if they were still genuinely present. The chief cause for this breakdown in meaningful communication with people with Alzheimer’s disease is our belief that they are “gone,” or are “slowly disappearing,” and thus not in need of communication beyond that which is necessary to keep them cared for—which all too often means fed, medicated, and pleasantly distracted. This belief is a social construction—a myth easily dispelled by our many experiences at Memory Bridge.
While other Alzheimer’s-dedicated organizations seek a cure for the disease (which we support 100%) or to provide assistance to care partners (which we support 1000%) our mission is to heal the dis-eases of Alzheimer’s—the dis-ease people with Alzheimer’s feel because we communicate with them as if they are not really here, and the dis-ease we feel communicating with people whose modes of being do not meld seamlessly with our own. It is our conviction that people with Alzheimer’s disease are not only not gone, but that they have much to teach us—the “nondemented”—about who we are and what makes us human. What Memory Bridge has to offer is an approach to listening, learning, and loving.
Because people with Alzheimer’s can remind us about aspects of our own humanity that we are forgetting. They can teach us patience, how to listen beyond words, how to let go of inessential things, how to live in the present, and how to accept change with humor and dignity. People with Alzheimer’s disease can teach us how to love life and each other.