November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month as well as National Caregiver’s Month. It’s fitting to honor both groups during the same month since a substantial percentage of our nation’s family caregivers are struggling to provide the best care possible to their parent or spouse who has Alzheimer’s disease.
While Alzheimer’s awareness activities are conducted year around, special events are being hosted this month to emphasize the importance of early detection of Alzheimer’s disease, providing education for the public and securing funding for research.
Entertainment and fundraising:
On November 14, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America will celebrate caregivers everywhere with the “Together for Care: Profiles in Caregiving” reception and concert at Guastavino’s in New York. The event honors Bert E. Brodsky, AFA’s founding chairman, whose mother had Alzheimer’s disease. Tony Lucca, a finalist from the second season of “The Voice,” and Jesse Ruben, both of whom have experienced Alzheimer’s disease in their families, will perform. For tickets and information call 866-232-8484 or email the AFA at www.alzfdn.org.
A major event for the AFA each November is their memory screening project. Memory screening is for anyone concerned about memory loss or experiencing warning signs of dementia. It’s also for people whose family and friends have noticed changes in them, those who believe they are at risk due to a family history of dementia, as well as people who want to see how their memory is now so they can use these results for future comparison.
Many causes of memory problems are reversible, such as depression, vitamin deficiencies and medication reactions or interactions. Therefore, those who worry if their memory issues may be the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease could find that they have a reversible problem instead. The sooner such issues are cleared up, the better. These memory screenings are not held for the purpose of diagnosing Alzheimer’s. The screenings are a tool to help people become aware of the many potential causes of memory loss and encourage those with problems to see their doctors.
While Alzheimer’s disease is irreversible, early detection enables diagnosed individuals to be treated with available medications that can help slow progression of symptoms, take advantage of available support services and have a voice in long-term care and financial planning discussions pertaining to their own future.
This year, nearly 40 professional associations and trade groups, including the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), are supporting the event. For more information about National Memory Screening Day, including locating a site, call (toll free) 866-232-8484 or visit www.nationalmemoryscreening.org.
Alzheimer’s disease is currently costing our country $200 billion a year with an estimated $1.2 trillion price tag by mid-century. Yet, the United States currently invests only approximately $450 million in research for Alzheimer’s disease. For perspective, HIV/AIDs receives $3 billion in federal funding and cancer receives $6 billion. Considering the human cost of Alzheimer’s, as well as the huge financial toll it takes on families and the national economy, Alzheimer’s advocates would like to see funding increase significantly to help researchers develop a way to prevent or cure Alzheimer’s disease.
Do what you can this month to help raise awareness about the need for better funding for Alzheimer’s disease. Also, make sure that you, and/or a loved one who may have memory issues, are screened to see what is causing the problem.
Additionally, if you can provide any family caregiver with even a brief respite by staying with their loved one while they have some personal time, such a gesture would likely be welcome. If you can’t offer time or money, a friendly smile and an inquiry into how the caregiver is doing is still nice.
Alzheimer’s Foundation of America/Harris Interactive (2012). Retrieved from http://www.alzfdn.org/Surveys/Alzheimer%27s%20Caregivers%20Study%20090612.pdf
Report: (2009) National Alliance for Care giving and AARP. Retrieved from http://www.caregiving.org/data/Caregiving_in_the_US_2009_full_report.pdf_
Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran family caregiver who spent more than two decades caring for a total of seven elders. She is a newspaper columnist and the author of Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. Bradley Bursack is also a contributor to several books on caregiving and dementia, and is passionate about preserving the dignity of elders. Her website is www.mindingourelders.com. Follow Carol on Twitter @mindingourelder and on Facebook at Minding Our Elders.