Student Internship Stories: Emily Balicanta (SAR’22), Alzheimer’s San Diego

CCD: Tell us about your experience. What were your responsibilities?

EB: My role at Alzheimer’s San Diego as an ALZ Companion Intern, was to provide companionship to individuals living with dementia by hosting meaningful virtual visits that may not only improve the individual’s day through fun activities or conversations that recall memory, but also may help family care partners with a much-needed break. I am also responsible for researching, reading, and writing about Alzheimer’s disease, other forms of dementia, caretaking, support platforms, the involvement of social media to spread awareness and support, etc., which were to be used in future trainings and other informational settings.

CCD: What was the best thing about the experience? What was the worst?

EB: As an aspiring physical therapist, it is essential that one understands how to effectively communicate with their patients, especially when it depends on their age and abilities. The opportunity to be an ALZ companion offered me insight on how to interact with older people and how Alzheimer’s may affect an individual, which may be useful in my future career choice. Furthermore, this opportunity has allowed me to put my passion to help others in action, especially during difficult times when in-person interaction is prohibited.

CCD: What was the most memorable part of your experience?

EB: My most rewarding experience was receiving the opportunity to build a strong relationship with two families living with dementia. Working with a population that may struggle with technological difficulties, it was definitely a challenge at first finding the most beneficial way to get through to the families. For example, one family I worked with faced technical difficulties while attempting to use zoom in our primary visits. However, I persevered, researched other ways to communicate and share my screen with the family, and discovered YouTube livestream, which allowed me to display pictures on my computer that we would discuss over the phone and have a lovely conversation about. In the end, I discovered the best way possible to connect with the family, as well as give the care partner a much-needed break.

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