I wasn’t going to write a blog post this week. Not so much because it was Memorial Day weekend (although that was gonna be my official excuse), but because I’m a bit overwhelmed.
I’ve been out of town for work much of May thus far. I will be gone next week…and the week after…and I realized this morning that I have a summer class starting on June 4 which needs some preparation.
I was ready to bail on the blog for this week until I started prepping that summer course–Families, Alzheimer’s, and Related Dementias.
As I started putting some thought into the modifications I wanted to make to this course for the summer, I had an idea.
What if I ask a favor of you? What if I asked you to write a letter to my students telling them what you think they need to know about dementia?
Let me tell you a little more.
Most of these students will be undergraduates. You have to have junior status, so the majority will be 20-24 years old with a few non-traditional students thrown in the mix.
I have many Family Services, Psychology, and Gerontology majors enrolled in the course. There are a some Social Work majors, and (as I look at my course list for the first time) I notice two Communicative Disorders majors and an Exercise Science major.
As you might have figured out by this point–because I can be an oversharer–I oversee our Gerontology program, and many of the students in this major will go on to become licensed nursing home administrators. This is the only course these future nursing home administrators will take that focuses on dementia.
Other careers I might expect these students to pursue: Mental health counselor, gerontological social worker, nursing home enrichment/activities director, speech language pathologist, nursing home social services director, hospice team member, occupational therapist, assisted living manager, and adult day services coordinator.
On the first day of the course, I will ask them to share their reasons for taking the course. In the past, I’ve received responses like:
My grandma has Alzheimer’s. (If I have 30 students in a class, about five will tell me that they have or have had a family member with dementia.)
It sounds kinda interesting. (Kinda? But this is the most interesting class in the history of the world!)
I couldn’t find another class that fit into my schedule. (I apologize that you had to scrape the bottom of the barrel and take my class.) A related response, which I received a few years ago, is All the good classes were already full by the time I registered.
My friend took this class and said it wasn’t all that bad. (Thanks….I guess?)
I know our society is getting older and I might work with demented people in my career. (Sorry, but that’s the language that this student used, and I’m okay with it…at least they have a desire to learn. I can always teach someone appropriate language.)
My boyfriend is in the class and said I should take it with him. (I’m glad my class can substitute for date night. Should I order you guys a pizza? Maybe a bottle of wine?)
I heard you’re a good professor. (To be fair, I don’t hear this from too many students…only the really smart ones throw this out on the first day.)
As you can see, my students are all over the place in terms of knowledge and interest in dementia.
So, if you are willing, here is my challenge to you…Write a letter to my students about what you think they need to know about dementia.
I’m looking for letters from people living with dementia. I’m looking for letters from care partners. I’m looking from letters who have lost a loved one to dementia.
You can be angry. You can be funny. You can be hopeful. You can be pessimistic. You can be wherever you’re at today. Just promise me you’ll be real.
Write about your challenges. Write about your joys. Write about what makes you happy and what really pisses you off. I want all of it.
If it’s easier to do a video letter, I’m certainly cool with that as well.
I will hide your name and identifying info before posting these to our course website.
No pressure–but if you’ve got time before June 4 and you’re willing….I would sincerely love to hear your voice.
Email your letters to me at Elaine.Eshbaugh@UNI.EDU.