The holiday season is a time for spending time and making memories with loved ones, especially those who are losing their own precious memories. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia affect many families all around the world and the Alzheimer’s Association is a nonprofit organization made up of people who care and are determined to cure this disease. Check its website and the first thing you see is this statement: The Alzheimer’s Association leads the way to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support.
A serious disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and over five million Americans are currently living with some form of the disease. Alzheimer’s is often overlooked but has claimed more lives than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are serious diseases and they are only now becoming commonly diagnosed. The Alzheimer’s Association is trying to change that. Their vision: a world without Alzheimer’s and other dementia.
The New Mexico chapter provides many forms of support to patients, family members, and caregivers with a constant focus on promoting research. Southwestern Regional Development Manager for the Alzheimer’s Association, Emily Chaddock, oversees seven counties in the Southwest region along with her team member, who covers the entire state of New Mexico, Programs Volunteer Case Manager Alexis Ramirez. These two, along with many volunteers, are the ones behind every event, support group, class, and meeting.
The Alzheimer’s Association hosts two major events each year: The Longest Day and The Walk to End Alzheimer’s. The Longest Day is held on the summer solstice. “This event is focused on fighting against the darkness of the disease through a fundraising activity of choice,” Emily explained. For example, someone can create an online Zumba class, and then those who want to participate can donate. The proceeds go toward research, resources, and care while the participant gets to have fun and celebrate the longest day of the year. If you can’t think of an idea for your event, there are great suggestions on the website to get you started.
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is held each fall in more than 600 communities worldwide, raising awareness and funds. As the largest event of its kind in the world, anyone anywhere can participate and be a part of the change. You can sign up on their website as a team captain, team member, or individual to start raising funds and spreading the word today.
Support for Family Members
“Family members and caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia need assistance, too. So, in addition to fundraising and awareness events, we provide support groups for caregivers who deal with the effects of the disease every day,” said Emily. The Alzheimer’s Association also offers educational services on how to handle different daily situations, times of frustration, worsening or improving signs, planning for the future, ways to prevent advancement of the disease, and so much more.
Kathleen DiMasi has experienced benefits of the Alzheimer’s Association firsthand. When her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and her father with Parkinson’s disease, Kathleen began attending support groups and educational services provided by the Alzheimer’s Association. She quickly learned that as a part of Alzheimer’s Association, “You are never left alone,” she said. “The biggest draw for me was the community. Even though it’s small, they are compassionate and supportive and just really do a remarkable job.”
Kathleen quickly went from participating in her support groups to volunteering at Las Cruces’ 2019 Walk to End Alzheimer’s. After that event, she fell in love with it. She then became certified to facilitate support groups and is currently in the process of completing the required training to teach classes.
“I was always curious, why is it that music is such a strong strategy in working with people with both traumatic injury as well as people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia?” she said. “What is it about music?” The answer she received in one of her trainings was, in her own words, fascinating. Turns out that this positive response to music is due to the fact that music is stored in all parts of the brain as opposed to other information, such as math, that is stored in just one part of the brain.
According to Kathleen, “When you can blend heart and soul and mind into one incredible mission, it doesn’t really get any better than that.”
Kathleen’s main advice to those who are currently playing the role as caregiver to their loved one is “Whenever you feel stuck or don’t know what to do, call the 24/7 hotline.”
One of the best resources the Alzheimer’s Association has to offer is just a phone call away. Anyone in need of immediate assistance or advice related to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can follow Kathleen’s advice and call the helpline. Call 1-800-272-3900 and someone will assist you.
Alzheimer’s Association gets creative
This year has been an especially interesting and challenging one for the Alzheimer’s Association, but restrictions on gatherings didn’t stop participants and volunteers from finding new ways to raise awareness. Instead of a big in-person event for this year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, Emily and her team got creative. Participants were encouraged to walk around their neighborhoods, in the wilderness, or wherever else they wanted and share it on the Alzheimer’s Association website, in a safe and socially distanced virtual event.
Although the way events and other services are held has changed, one thing that hasn’t changed is their commitment to ending Alzheimer’s.
A huge part of the Alzheimer’s Association’s success is thanks to the community, Emily stressed, because without its volunteers, donors, and participants, the organization wouldn’t be able to do the work it does. You can help this holiday season by raising awareness about the support offered by our local Alzheimer’s Association chapter. Understanding that if they have questions, concerns, or issues, they will be addressed or pointed in the right direction helps create badly needed peace of mind. It’s easy to feel lost and the association helps everyone affected build a network and gain long-lasting support for their families and loved ones. That’s an invaluable gift.
For additional information on local groups, events, and educational services, visit alz.org/newmexico. Reach out today to see how you can join the fight and be an active part of ending Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Written by Olivia Belcher • Photos courtesy Alzheimer’s Association
Originally published in Neighbors magazine | 2020
Posted by LasCruces.com