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Jessica FontaineJessica Fontaine presents some of what she learned during a placement with the Alzheimer Society of Windsor and Essex County.

Posters present practicum experiences and psychology research

People with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease sometimes wander; a UWindsor student was pleased to be able to work on a program to help get them home.

“They forget where they are, they’ll leave and no one will know where they’ve gone,” says Jessica Fontaine, a fourth-year double major in disability studies and psychology. “Meanwhile, their families are freaking out.”

She served a practicum placement with the Alzheimer Society, helping to design materials for its “Finding Your Way” program, which educates families, caregivers and first responders on how to recognize people with dementia who are lost.

“We give families tips on how to keep their members from wandering, as well as first steps to locating them,” says Fontaine. “It’s about remaining independent and staying safe.”

A poster presentation detailing her experiences was one of dozens displayed Tuesday in Vanier Hall by seniors in disability studies and psychology, explaining their practicum placements and thesis research projects.

Mary Harper, who supervised Fontaine for the course “Community Orientation to Disability Issues,” says the projects are very educational for the students.

“They learned so much and gained skills in terms of working with people and advocacy,” she says. “Nothing compares to real-world engagement with these community partner organizations.”

Fontaine agrees, noting that she had volunteered for the Alzheimer Society, but developed a much deeper appreciation for its work by being behind the scenes.

“You see a different side—how much work is done with caregivers,” she says. “It’s not just people with dementia who need support, it’s their families.”

Psychology professor Kathryn Lafreniere oversaw fourth-year thesis research projects. She says the poster presentations are themselves a valuable learning experience.

“Most of these students will go on to graduate study, and so a day like this is part of their professional training,” she says. “It prepares them for academic presentations at conferences.”

She says the quality of project exceeded her expectations, “and I have high expectations.”

Students in Marcia Gragg’s class “Practicum in Developmental Psychology” and Ted Vokes’ class “Practicum in Psychology” were also among Tuesday’s presenters.