Alzheimer’s Texas and the Rogers Hornsby chapter of SABR have teamed up to provide a baseball-themed program for Central Texas residents with early-stage Alzheimer’s.
This program, nicknamed BasebALZ, uses baseball as a topic for reminiscence therapy. Reminiscence therapy is an approach to improve the well-being of Alzheimer’s patients by invoking and discussing their memories of the past.
The following video features some of our volunteers and participants talking about their experiences with BasebALZ:
The effort here in Central Texas is based upon a highly successful baseball-themed program, the Cardinals Reminiscence League (CRL), developed by the Alzheimer’s Association in St. Louis. Some information on the CRL and supporting resources can be found here.
For our program here in Austin, Texas, we adopted the general framework of the St. Louis CRL and modified it to fit our community, baseball history, and the interests of our early-stage Alzheimer’s participants. We developed a “season” of six bi-weekly meetings, held for 90 minutes and including lunch. The audience included Alzheimer’s participants and their care-givers. Volunteers included local SABR members and spouses, led by chapter member Jim Kenton, as well as existing Alzheimer’s volunteers with an interest in baseball. A typical agenda might include:
- Opening Lineups – discuss favorite players and teams
- Sing the National Anthem
- The Year in Baseball – present and discuss events on- and off-the field for a selected year (maybe a memorable World Series or other year that would invoke participants’ pleasant memories; plus topics such as current music, TV shows, key events of that era)
- A Day at the Ballpark – present and discuss the groups’ experiences in going to a ball game; how did you get there, what did you do pre-game, during the game? Perhaps focus on local ballparks, past and present.
- Do something with touch or feel – oil a baseball glove, pass around some memorabilia, etc.
- Seventh-inning stretch – have lunch and sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”
- Post-game wrap-up and reminder of next meeting
In addition to a regular agenda, an occasional “guest speaker” was invited. Former Texas Longhorns and MLB pitcher Calvin Schiraldi joined us for one of the sessions.
After our “regular season”, we held a postseason event at the ballgame.
Feedback regarding BasebALZ has been very positive. Participants and their caregivers enjoyed the sessions and the fellowship. The volunteers found the experience very rewarding. Everyone couldn’t wait for the next session!
As a result of the great response, a second BasebALZ “season” was held in Fall 2015, beginning in mid-September and lasting through November. This “season” was equally successful and enjoyable.
Our SABR chapter and Alzheimer’s Texas are continuing to offer BasebALZ as an ongoing program. In addition to our sessions in Austin, we are expanding the program to regional Veterans Administration locations. As of Summer, 2016, we are holding a monthly session at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Kerrville, Texas (picture below). The program has been well-received by participants and administrators in Kerrville.
We are currently working with the Alzheimer’s Association – San Antonio Chapter and with the Veterans Administration – South Texas to field a BasebALZ program in San Antonio.
Here are a few “thank you” notes we’ve received from participants and administrators:
“We would like to express our gratitude to you for taking time to volunteer at the Alzheimer’s Association. We really enjoyed the “Baseball Memory” class. I especially enjoyed the camaraderie and recalling childhood memories. The feeling of support, fun and laughter was something we looked forward to each week. Thanks also to your sweet wives who came and helped. We are looking forward to the Express Game tonight and appreciate this opportunity.
Thanks again for your friendship and support. Psalms 13:5-6. “
B.P. and R. P. – participant and caregiver.
“A big special thank-you for your efforts in presenting the excellent reminiscence presentations in our baseball meetings. Your work brought many memories of past baseball experiences. This thank-you also goes to the wives for their additions to your presentations.
We loved the discussions of the historical facts related to baseball. We appreciate all of your work in making this available to the Alzheimer’s group.
Sincerely, F.L. and M.L. ” – participant and caregiver
“First off, let me say how awesome it is that your group does what it does. I myself am not the biggest baseball fan or fanatic and I find myself on the edge of my seat when y’all come and give presentations to our veterans.
Since y’all have been coming to the VA here in Kerrville we have noticed a few things about our regular participants in the program. Some of our veterans that are not the most social or big conversation starters seem to open up during the group sessions. They can recall past games they have been to and other memories from their youth. It is amazing to see how far back some of our residents can remember the events of their days. The details that they express in the groups sometimes paint a picture so clear you can almost see it as if you are there yourself. You guys do all this through baseball knowledge and facts. It is simply amazing. One of our veterans (you know who) was able to recall an entire game and day from his youth based off of one fact from that game about a pitcher throwing the ball out of the stadium. I think that alone says something about what you guys do… It is amazing to see some of our closed-off veterans initiate conversations and even socialize in group settings who normally do not… It gives our residents a comfortable way to ease into conversation allowing opportunities to socialize and reminisce. It creates opportunities to share experiences and even have an occasional laugh… Our veterans have many stories to share and your groups allow opportunities for that. Some of our veterans do not have the best memory anymore, due to age and other various diagnoses. These sessions present opportunities to trigger memories they may have forgotten over time. In my opinion it is a wonderful program and service that y’all provide. I know our residents and even our staff marvel at the benefits from the program.
We thank you here at Kerrville VA for bringing your services to us and look forward to continue to work with you.”
From a staff member at the Kerrville, Texas Veterans Administration
“ … You are really on to something. My husband has had Alzheimer’s for 11 years that we know of, he and I have been part of a variety of programs to respond to the challenges of dementia. The Baseball Memories group that you guys have created is at the top of the list. You really have a gift for bridging the divide that can result from this disease. It is a joy to see him in his element and light up, and I have learned a bit about baseball and enjoyed it all.
“ PS – today as we walked out to the car, he was singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ at the top of his voice .”
L.V. – caregiver
We encourage local SABR chapters to consider teaming with their local Alzheimer’s support groups, community service organizations and major- or minor-league baseball clubs to investigate a volunteer program such as BasebALZ. It’ll truly be a rewarding experience; and after all, what’s more enjoyable for a SABR member than talking baseball?
- Jim Kenton: SABR Central/South Texas BasebALZ project leader; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Monte Cely: SABR Rogers Hornsby Chapter communications; e-mail: email@example.com
- Christian Wells: President – Alzheimer’s Texas; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org