Helping the Geneva Alzheimer’s Association

This guest blog post is by Maria Paola Lia, Program Director of Global Health Programs at Eli Lilly and Company.  She is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Giving back is a crucial part of the business of global health. When I joined Lilly in 2011, I was eager to work with a company that was producing innovative global health solutions, but also actively making a difference in communities around the world through its philanthropy.  It was important to go beyond simply donating medicines or money and to include meaningful voluntary service in the communities where we work.

I’m not alone. Each year, thousands of Lilly employees around the world join together in a Global Day of Service: a day dedicated to the community. We use our time and expertise in the service of others while building stronger relationships amongst our colleagues.

This year, Lilly Switzerland decided to give each employee the opportunity to spend one day during the year with the Geneva Alzheimer’s Association. Worldwide, about 47.5 million people are living with Alzheimer’s or related dementia. We live and build our lives based on our experiences and the relationships we create, but slowly people with Alzheimer’s Disease lose pieces of their story. This is a painful, destabilizing process for those affected and for their loved ones – and one I can deeply relate to, as my aunt is affected by Alzheimer’s Disease.

I had the privilege to spend a day with my colleagues in “Nouvelle Roseraie,” St. Légier with Alzheimer’s Geneva, when St. Légier residents with Alzheimer’s Disease, their partners, stayed for a week-long holiday. It was an occasion for relaxing and entertaining activities for both partners: the person with Alzheimer’s Disease is exposed to stimulating activities, while the others have the chance to break their routine, get some external support in the care of their loved one as well as a chance to speak to psychologists about the difficult aspects of the the disease.

We organized with a special theme for the day: “Italy.” As I am Italian, I delighted in preparing some activities – including of course an Italian lunch! – with my colleagues and the guests. It was an amazing day that ended with beautiful songs and all the guests singing warmly together.

“The most important aspect of this day was the sharing. It has been the meeting of two entities, the pharma and the patient association, who usually don’t spend time together. Yet, we share a common aim: attempt to make life better for the patients. Thanks to this day, I can now see the faces and personalities that made up Lilly.” Sophie Courvoisier, director at Association Alzheimer Geneva

The guests were so positive and appreciated the activities we did together. I felt very humbled by the efforts of the healthcare personnel who take care of them. The commitment, energy and selflessness of the friends and relatives of the people suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, the daily caregivers, was also incredibly inspiring. They give everything they have.

I am grateful to Lilly for this rewarding experience, and more broadly, appreciate even more Lilly’s 25 plus years of commitment to research in dementia and the research efforts of others to address this disease.