Tiffani Le's Internship Experience with Alzheimer's San Diego
Tiffani Le was a student at Eleanor Roosevelt College with a major in Global Health and minor in General Biology. She graduated in Winter Quarter '21 and is currently matriculating into medical school. For 4 months she volunteered at Alzheimer's San Diego, a local nonprofit organization that provides support and information to people living with dementia and care partners. They serve to help find resources for families and people living with dementia alike, as well as promoting awareness and raising funds for a cure to Alzheimer's disease.
Tiffani worked with the Volunteer Coordinator, Lindsey Proctor, as well as interacting with the education staff to develop volunteer training programs and activities, review Alzheimer's and dementia research, as well as utilizing social media platforms to promote awareness and fundraising activities for the Alzheimer's/dementia community. Since this was a virtual internship conducted over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, her training consisted of a preliminary overview of what Alzheimer's disease was, how it affects personal and social life, and techniques for interacting with people living with dementia. Skills that were most important to her internship were methods and techniques to interact with people living with dementia, to join their reality and encourage a two-way partnership in care.
I have family members who lived with Alzheimer's disease, of which their symptoms and mannerisms were textbook. I was younger, and they have since passed, but in reviewing models and methods for interacting with people living with dementia, I regret not having learned these skills earlier.
To overcome these challenges, Tiffani aims to promote awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Some of the most valuable skills that she has taken away from her field experience is the ability to better communicate with people living with dementia.
A disease without a cure, but not a life without purpose.
During her field experience, Tiffani's volunteer coordinator was extremely helpful with reviewing her work and advising her on where to improve on her next projects. She took away many lessons from the education seminars she attended, the research she reviewed, and the projects that she created.
Dementia is a socially stigmatized disease and may seem as though life and care will only get progressively more difficult as time goes along. However, one of the best pieces of advice that I heard was to not focus on what has changed, but what has stayed the same. To cherish the person for who they were and not to challenge the person they are becoming.
When Tiffani wasn't working on her internship activities with Alzheimer's San Diego, she was either working, studying, or finishing applications for medical school. Since it was not in person, all of her work had to be self-led, but this gave her a lot of freedom to work during off-hours. While she did graduate from UCSD during Winter Quarter 2021, she continued her virtual internship with Alzheimer's San Diego into the summer.