Social Capital: Fan Liu

Meet the Londoners working to make a meaningful difference in our community

Fan Liu, Graduate Student, Western University

Passion: Alzheimer Society London and Middlesex

My grandfather developed dementia when I was in high school. I saw his struggles and how it impacted the whole family, and I wanted to learn more about the disease. So, I reached out to a research lab at Western, and when I was in grade 11, I did a co-op placement at the Vulnerable Brain Lab at Schulich.

I went on to do my undergrad in medical sciences at Western, and now I’m a grad student, working in the same research lab where I did my high school co-op. Basically, I’ve immersed myself in this disease for the past six or seven years.

Right now, there is no cure, no vaccine, no way to stop the progression of the disease. I’ve learned that people with Alzheimer’s often feel socially excluded—they lose their independence and no longer feel part of the community. It can be daunting—not just for the person, but for their family and caregivers.

I learned about the Alzheimer Society London and Middlesex through my colleagues in the lab. Their volunteer experiences really resonated with me and my values. For the past year and a half, I’ve been volunteering as a companion. I spend time every Sunday with an 82-year-old retired teacher. He’s lost his independence, and I’m able to take him out to enjoy activities around the city. It also provides respite time for his wife.

Social Capital: Fan Liu Promoted

We might see a ball game, walk through the famers’ market or go for coffee. He’s a big baseball fan, so we went to a London Majors game. I’d never even watched baseball, but he still recalls the rules and explained them all to me during the game.

The local Alzheimer Society is reaching thousands of clients, working to alleviate the personal and social consequences of the disease through counseling, social and recreational activities, and other programs for both the people living with dementia and their caregivers. They rely on the generosity of the community for 70 per cent of their funding.

My dad is still relatively young, but Alzheimer’s is something that is definitely on the radar for him, and for me as well. Almost 600,000 Canadians have Alzheimer’s or dementia, and it impacts the entire family—it’s reasonable to say that millions of Canadians are affected.

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