(This Op-Ed in support of Alzheimer's Project appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat in 2012.)
Over 15 million people in America are unpaid caregivers for those with Alzheimer’s disease, an irreversible degeneration of the brain that causes disruptions in memory, cognition and personality, resulting in complete brain failure. Not only is Alzheimer’s disease a heartbreaking burden for many families, but it is a financial one as well.
According to the American Health Assistance Foundation, the annual cost of caring for an individual with Alzheimer’s can range anywhere from $18,500 to $36,000, depending on how far the disease itself has progressed. With a national expense of $200 billion, finances related to Alzheimer’s have been projected to cripple the already struggling American healthcare system. In 2050, it is predicted that due to the need for health care, long-term care, and hospice, Alzheimer’s will yield an astounding $1.1 trillion in expenses.
With the economy already lacking a solid foundation, where can one turn for help with this quickly spreading disease? Local, non-profit organizations, such as Alzheimer’s Project, Inc., offer solutions – and they provide these services to local caregivers completely free of charge.
With the main goal of keeping local caregivers physically and emotionally healthy, helping them to delay the institutionalization of their loved ones, Alzheimer’s Project, Inc. offers relief to unpaid caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments. Alzheimer’s Project does this in a multitude of ways: respite rooms, where art, music therapy, and socializing come together; caregiver support groups, where caregivers can come for fellowship while their loved one experiences complimentary respite care; in-home care for those who cannot leave their house; and Project Lifesaver, an electronic bracelet monitored by the Sheriff’s Department, which helps return potential wanderers home safely.
The annual Forget-Me-Not Walk raises funds so that respite care, support groups, Project Lifesaver and other services can exist for local caregivers in the Big Bend area. Money raised for this organization stays local, and helps caregivers that also act as friends, family and neighbors to the community.
The 11th Annual Forget-Me-Not Walk and Family Festival is one of the greatest efforts of Alzheimer’s Project, Inc. to raise money for community caregivers. In addition to the walk, there will be a bounce house for kids, face painting, and lunch to appease everyone’s appetite. The event will take place at St Paul’s Methodist Church from 1:30 – 4 PM on November 4th.
There has never been a greater need for organizations such as Alzheimer’s Project, Inc. in communities such as the Big Bend. Free services and volunteers have and continue to aid Alzheimer’s from crippling the healthcare system.
From a more local perspective, the organization aids the nearly 4,000 families in the Big Bend alone that have been affected by Alzheimer’s. Not only is there emotional support offered for these families through caregivers, but the financial burden that accompanies this devastating disease is eased as well. By prolonging institutionalization, Alzheimer’s Project, Inc. allows families more time with their loved ones at home, and saves households from the out-of-pocket damage that inevitably is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Take steps to help end this quickly growing disease. To show support, make sure to attend the Forget-Me-Not Walk and Family Festival, or make a donation by visiting Alzheimer’s Project, Inc. at 301 East Tharpe Street, Tallahassee FL, 32303 or www.alzheimersproject.org.