By Lynette Carrington
When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease it can be a confusing and challenging time for both the newly diagnosed individual and the people around them. The Alzheimer’s Association Desert Southwest Chapter works to support and empower anyone affected by Alzheimer’s or a related dementia while funding the latest advancements in research that will hopefully one day realize a world without this terrible disease. Every 67 seconds someone new is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. Alzheimer’s Association works to provide care and support for those living with the disease and their families while also accelerating the advancement of Alzheimer’s research.
The Alzheimer’s Association Desert Southwest Chapter was founded in 1981 and provides services across Arizona and southern Nevada. Alzheimer’s disease was first described by German physician Alois Alzheimer just over 100 years ago.Much has changed since that time.
“People’s awareness of Alzheimer’s increased dramatically when President Ronald Reagan acknowledged that he had the disease,” states Dan Lawler, Development Director for the Chapter. “Over the years, people have referred to hardening of the arteries or senility – things that we now know were Alzheimer’s.” Awareness about Alzheimer’s has grown rapidly and Alzheimer’s Association is front and center, providing critical care and support for those affected.
“We pride ourselves in assisting the person with the disease as well as their care partners,” Lawler explains. “We do that through a 24-hour helpline. It’s manned by live people all day, every day, 365 days a year. They provide a wide-range of help, from questions on an initial diagnosis and concerns when someone’s mom or dad doesn’t seem to be acting quite right to crisis calls when care partners are at their wits end.”
For those people or care partners that need more individualized attention, there are social workers on staff to assist. “They go out and work with families, developing care plans and provide supportive services for families and individuals affected by this disease,” Lawler says.
“There are more than 80 support groups across the Desert Southwest Chapter,” shares Lawler. “In addition, the Alzheimer’s Association conducts a number of free education sessions every week in communities across the Chapter.” Sessions typically take place at libraries and various community centers, providing attendees information on specific topics, such as Alzheimer’s warning signs, communication techniques and long-term financial planning.
“Early stage programming is actually our newest category of programs,” Lawler states. “These programs are designed to engage and empower the person with the disease.” Now that individuals are being diagnosed in the earlier stages of the disease, they are seeking input in their own care plan, while also working to change the course of the disease for future generations.
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the organization’s largest annual fundraiser. Each year thousands of people sign up and show their support of friends and loved ones while raising money for the Alzheimer’s Association’s mission. Funds raised by each Walker support local programs and services as well as the latest in Alzheimer’s research.
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s takes place in Sierra Vista on October 3, in Prescott and Sun City West on October 17, Las Vegas on October 24, Tucson and Sedona on November 7 and in Phoenix on November 14. To register as a participant or create your team for any event, go to alz.org/walk, or click here.
The Alzheimer’s Association Desert Southwest Chapter office is located at 1028 E. McDowell Rd., Phoenix. Call (602) 528-0545 or visit www.alz.org/dsw for additional information. To access the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 helpline call 1 (800) 272-3900.