A scheme in the US is intended to assist in the treatment of dementia patients by teaming up individuals with Alzheimer's disease with trainee medics.
Future doctors are being paired with those diagnosed with the illness in a bid to improve students' understanding of dementia, the Associated Press reports.
Pioneered by Northwestern University in Illinois and launched at a number of other medical schools, the 'buddy' programme is aiming to enhance care by providing trainees with a greater awareness of the challenges faced by patients and their families outside a clinical setting.
In addition to benefiting the young medics, the scheme also provides individuals with Alzheimer's with a chance to engage socially and a sense of purpose.
Patients and their buddy first-year students are paired up based on shared interests and spend time together in order to extend knowledge of the disease beyond the classroom.
Speaking about what he had learned through the programme, trainee doctor Jared Worthington, 25, told the news source: "It's something scary and difficult, but just because you have Alzheimer's doesn't mean that ... your life is over. You can still contribute and give back and participate meaningfully."
He has been paired up with Dan Winship, an 80-year-old retired physician and educator, who is in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. The two men have socialised together by doing day-to-day activities such as eating out and visiting museums.
The Buddy Program at Northwestern University started in 1998 and has won a MindAlert Award, attracting between ten and 15 students per year.
It includes a three-hour orientation on Alzheimer's disease and communication skills, monthly group meetings and educational seminars, and being matched with a buddy who students commit to spending at least four hours a month with.
Affecting millions of people around the world, there are an estimated 800,000 people with dementia in the UK and projections suggest this figure will rise to more than one million by 2021.
Around 80 per cent of those living in care homes have severe memory problems or a form of dementia, such as Alzheimer's.
Find out about dementia care and support services at Barchester care homes