Alzheimer's Awareness Postal Stamp Unveiled Oct. 17th
Today, Alzheimer’s disease will be making its “stamp” on the world, as the United States Postal Service officially unveils the first Alzheimer’s Awareness stamp and issues 65 million of the 42-cents commemorative stamps nationwide. Today, it’s a historic day for those committed to the cause of Alzheimer’s disease, families affected by it—and, on a side note, stamp collectors and those who still treasure the art of letter writing.
According to the United States Postal Service, the stamp is designed “to raise awareness of issues surrounding this dreadful disease and to draw attention to the importance of the caregiver.”
In the words of the artist who designed the stamp, Matt Mahurin, "I wanted to have a balance between the kindness of caregivers and the sadness of the disease, but also the message of hope that was indicated in making a stamp to bring attention to the disease."
The Alzheimer’s Awareness stamp follows in a long tradition of commemorative stamps, including some related to health issues. In the past, the government has issued stamps for breast cancer awareness and AIDS awareness. It is appropriate on so many fronts for Alzheimer’s disease to be the health-related stamp of the day.
I have often compared Alzheimer’s disease to where cancer and AIDS were decades ago—a very hush, hush do not speak about it kind of disease. Surveys continually show the silence that engulfs Alzheimer’s disease; it is surrounded by stigma and denial and an unlikely topic for individuals—even those with memory concerns—to bring up with their doctors or even their own family members. This stamp hopefully will strip away some of the silence.
It is also appropriate because so many family caregivers, unfortunately, face this disease alone, handling the 24/7 responsibilities by themselves and holding in their emotions as they watch the decline of their loved ones. We continually urge caregivers to reach out for help, to join support groups, to take time off for themselves—and to understand that they are heroes when it comes to caring for people with this brain disorder.
In his remarks today at the ceremony, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) alluded to this: “The unveiling of the new Alzheimer's Awareness stamp reminds us that behind every person afflicted with Alzheimer's there are families and friends whose hearts are breaking with each lost memory. This stamp allows all of us to honor the fight against this painful disease — together.”
And, this stamp is fitting because it serves as an inspiration to all of us—family caregivers and professionals—who dedicate ourselves each and every day to the cause. When the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America had the honor in mid-September of unveiling the Alzheimer’s Awareness stamp at a special ceremony at our national conference in San Francisco, I witnessed the potential power of this stamp. Cameras were snapping, attendees lined up to take photos with the enlarged replica of the stamp, tears were flowing. One Alzheimer’s agency executive in attendance summed it up best, noting that she “felt privileged” to be a witness to the unveiling.
As I use this stamp, as you use this stamp, let’s hope it leaves an imprint on others.