Letter: All should be aware of Alzheimer’s toll

We have to wake up.

James Carville, political commentator and media personality, spoke at the Alzheimer’s Services 30th Anniversary Gala earlier this year and remarked Alzheimer’s disease is “contagious.” Carville, along with his other siblings, cared for their mother, “Nippy,” with the disease, and was simply expressing that the disease was contagious in the sense that the whole family suffers on its own terms when one family member is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

So true. Caregivers and a network of family and friends are all affect ed by this debilitating brain disorder which affects 5.2 million Americans of all ages annually.

The disease is reaching epidemic proportions with mounting costs. In 2013, the direct costs of caring for those with Alzheimer’s to American society will total an estimated $203 billion, including $142 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid.

Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area serves a 10-parish area, and recent numbers revealed more than 21,000 individuals in these areas alone have developed Alzheimer’s, with a calculated 100,000-plus individuals statewide.

Every 68 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer’s, and our country, states, and community need to be wakeful of this pandemic attack to our population.

Our organization is “wide awake” in providing programs and services to meet the growing demands and needs of our community.

The Alzheimer’s Services Charlie’s Place Respite Center stands as a nationally recognized social model for the hallmark of person-centered care for individuals with Alzheimer’ss or dementia-related disorders. Additionally, we assist with educational and social programs, respite reimbursement, dementia training, a Helpline telephone support system, Recollection Collection activity kits, Support Groups, Financial Literacy classes, Early Onset and LGBT support, a Charlie’s Place replication business plan for providers, and we offer a library with over 1,100 holdings.

Alzheimer’s Services is extremely aware and grateful for the contributions we have received and continue to receive from those who champion our cause to provide these programs and services.

Our annual Walk/Run to Remember last month was a clear validation of those special ambassadors.

Their spirit never wavered in the rain as they walked or ran in honor of or in memory of their mothers or grandmothers, fathers or grandfathers, husbands or wives, family members or friends.

As National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness month is observed this November, there are no “sleepy eyes” in our organization. We are conscious and forging ahead with activities which include parish-wide Memory Screenings, Lunch-n-Learn educational workshops, Financial Literacy programs, a caregiver social, and a special commemorative Candle Lighting event.

The alarm has been sounding for quite a while. We cannot ignore the piercing statistics and resonant demand for services for individuals affected by this disease. It is time to wake up.

We have no other choice.

Dana Territo

director of services, Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area

Baton Rouge