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Museum program helps live with memory loss

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A new program is using old treasures to spark new connections for people living with memory loss. A new program is using old treasures to spark new connections for people living with memory loss.
ATLANTA -

A new program is using old treasures to spark new connections for people living with memory loss.

One of the hardest things about living with memory loss is the isolation. You feel like your life is shrinking smaller and smaller.

"Museum Moments" is using art as a bridge to help people like Cecile Bazaz reconnect with her husband of 29 years, Alister, and get back into the world around her.
     
Cecile, 53, has early onset Alzheimer's disease.

A former banker, and mother, her memory began slipping about four years ago.
 
"I knew something was up when stuff at work started happening and she was getting very concerned that she wasn't meeting deadlines," said Alister.
 
At first Alister and their daughter, Kathleen, thought it was just menopause.

"The real telling point was when she went on an out of town on a trip for the bank and she couldn't remember her password to her laptop, which meant she wasn't able to get anything done.  Then it became critical, and that's when we started looking into what it could be.  This is not normal," said Alister.

It took a year to get a diagnosis.

"She was so young. She was 50, 51, and who would have thought it at the time," said Alister.

"I don't work now, because of my…situation," said Cecile.

Alzheimer's has affected not just Cecile's speech, but every part of her life.

"It was hard, because I couldn't really do anything.  And he goes to work and I'm not doing the same things that I would use to do," she said.

That's why Cecile and Alister jumped at the chance to be part of a new program for people with memory loss called Museum Moments. The program was created by former Emory medical student Emily Lu,

"It's called Museum Moments because we really hope that we give you sort of a moment to be yourself again.  Be an individual looking at art, where there are no wrong answers," said Lu.

The guides are trained not to lecture, but to ask questions.

"A lot of people have told me that they found either the participant or their care partner just much more talkative. Much more engaged in conversation than they've been used to seeing. I think you can also see it in people's eyes," said Lu.
 
Lu says you don't need to go to a museum to spark a connection, but it's a nice place to start.

"I really hope that they had a moment to enjoy the process. Enjoy being here. And feel like they were able to open up and express themselves in a new way," said Lu.

Alister says he wishes more Atlanta museums would open their doors to programs like this.

If you are dealing with memory loss, or have a loved one who is, the Alzheimer's Association has a lot of support groups and programs that might help.

For more information on support programs for Alzheimer's patients and their families, contact the Alzheimer's Association Georgia chapter at 1.800.272.3900 or www.alz.org/georgia

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