Too Many Alzheimer's Awareness Months, Weeks Bring Confusion

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Color me confused.

    The Alzheimer’s Association sent out an e-newsletter recently noting that June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month.  So I decided to Google Alzheimer’s Month to see if I could learn additional information about this event.  I found that November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Caregiver Month, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. However, September is listed as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in another Google search.  And then there was the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Awareness Week 2014, which is listed (in past tense) for June 18-24 (which is still coming up, at least where I live). And then Alzheimer’s Australia held its Dementia Awareness Week on Sept. 16-22, 2013. Plus you have June 21,which has been designated as the Alzheimer’s Association’s Longest Day.

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    So are you also scratching your head at this cacophony of events that don’t seem to have any coordination? If so, let me share my overall observations and thoughts.

    Frankly, for the Alzheimer’s Association, I think it’s all about the money, money, money. It appears to me that the Alzheimer’s Association is primarily using these special months as a money maker. For instance, when I clicked to “read more” about Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, I was taken directly to a page to shop – for purple t-shirts, sunglasses, neckties, shorts and scarfs. There is absolutely no mention on this page about statistics about Alzheimer’s or which famous people have had this condition or examples of research that is going on to try to stop this disease or programs that are offered. It’s all about consumerism. Then if you click to get information about the organization’s Longest Day, you’re taken to a page where you’re encouraged to create a team and raise money.

    The good news is that Charity Navigator gives the Alzheimer’s Association a score of three out of four stars overall, including four stars for its accountability and transparency. However, it only received two out of four stars when looking at the organization’s financial health. This report also shows that this association raised more than $19 million in fundraising events by the end of the fiscal year of June 2012.

    Let me be clear. Since 2007 when my mother – who had Alzheimer’s disease – died, I’ve participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s that is coordinated by the Alzheimer’s Association. I’ve also headed up a team that has participated in the walk in my local area since 2008. I still plan to participate in this event in 2014 and to coordinate a team, but I will not try to re-tap my friends and contacts to contribute over and over again to this organization through another fund-raising effort.

    Now admittedly, different events do involve different people. I have a young friend who participates in Blonds vs. Brunettes football game that raises funds to support the Alzheimer’s Association; this isn't an event that I'd participate in at my age. Recently, the association hosted a luncheon in my area that was focused on fundraising and awareness. So I do get it that different events try to bring in different audiences.

  • However, I find that I’m having a problem when I see an organization that uses awareness events such as a designated Alzheimer’s month to primarily raise funds without really offering messages that highlight the problem. The Alzheimer’s Association needs to provide meaningful examples of services or research that are offered through the association because of the funds that are collected in these events. I’d like to know how they’re spending the money that I and so many others work so hard to collect, especially in non-metropolitan areas like where I live where the Alzheimer’s Association regional offices are not located.

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    A coordinated awareness effort is needed. I wish that all of these organizations would pick just one month and come up with a coordinated and targeted marketing plan that really drives home the story about Alzheimer’s and dementia during that specific time period. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening now.


    And that’s sad because there are so many well-known people who are affected by dementia through their own battles or ones in their family who could really help bring awareness. Just imagine a public service effort involving traditional media and social media as well as targeted outreach efforts that highlight Seth Rogen, David Hyde Pierce, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s family members, Nancy Reagan, Glen Campbell, Pat Summitt, Maria Shriver, Rosa Parks' family members, Margaret Thatcher's family, and a variety of retired NFL football players as well as other well-known people from around the globe. Now that would be powerful!!  The campaign also could showcase features on some of the most promising research and impressive scientists who are working to solve this puzzle. That would make a great public awareness campaign – and one that I think would do more to inform and galvanize the world’s citizens -- and yes, raise funds -- in trying to fight this disease.

Published On: May 30, 2014