By Charlena Wynn
When Executive Director of Alzheimer’s Association of Eastern North Carolina Lisa Roberts’ mother was diagnosed with Cerebral Amyloid Antipathy, she and her family were shocked. They thought it only happened to older people and not a vivacious dynamic woman like her mother. The loss of her mother propelled her to become involved in her parents’ hometown of Sanford, North Carolina to seek answers to eliminating Alzheimer’s and related disorders.
For many caregivers and family members, like Roberts, they are shocked when a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. They may feel alone, confused, and helpless. “This disease leaves you feeling helpless and isolated,” says Lisa. The national organization, founded in 1980 by a group of caregivers led by Mr. Jerome Stone, sought to tackle Alzheimer’s from multiple fronts including the isolated feeling that many caregivers experience. Their mission, which aims to eliminate the disease through research, support and care for all affected, and reduce the risk of dementia through brain health, is accomplished by letting people know that they are there. “It’s important to know that the Alzheimer’s Association exists and wants to help you.”
Offering support 24 hours a day, every day of the year and in over 170 languages, the Alzheimer’s Association is readily available and accessible to anyone who needs guidance or support. Due to the openness of the nonprofit, they have been successful in funding and matching people with free clinical trials. This is critical to raising awareness about the disease and educating the public on brain health. Additionally, connecting with the public about their services including educational programming furthers their mission of support, research, and advocacy. “As the 6th leading cause of death with no way to cure, slow or prevent, it requires attention and care. People need resources but most of all, they need to know these resources exists,” says Lisa. They have learned the importance of caring for those who care for others. By doing so, caregivers can feel knowledgeable, encouraged, and continue to advocate for better understanding of all forms of dementia.
Local Chapters and Specific Needs
To combat the diverse needs of regional differences, local chapters aid in upholding the national mission by supporting the needs of local communities. Eastern North Carolina’s chapter understands that Alzheimer’s requires attention and care, but also connecting individuals to information to better understand brain health. Their annual research symposium allows caregivers and healthcare professionals to gather to discuss the latest research on ways to prevent and slow Alzheimer’s and dementia progression.
Resources range from support groups for male caregivers and families to staff education, education trainings, and corporate wellness presentations. Eastern North Carolina’s partnership with Duke University for the Family Support Program and Early Stage monthly support group meetings provide consistent education, emotional and social support for caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association has seen the benefits of working with caregivers as a means to increase concern and awareness about the disease, as caregivers are direct lines of care for those with Alzheimer’s. Local chapters like the Eastern North Carolina chapter are active in the community and help those who are in need. They provide a line of communication and consistent support to those who may feel isolated or alone.
Supporting Those on the Ground
Alzheimer’s Association’s multi-level approach to tackling this disease allows for important connections and to focus on the disease from several areas. Multi-level approaches coupled with supporting volunteers, caregivers, and those on the ground, can be beneficial in eliminating diseases and support the mission of a nonprofit. Because Alzheimer’s can affect anyone, the Association is focused on helping others to join the fight through education, advocacy, and research. Making those connections through emotional, social, and educational support, strengthens local and national communities of caregivers. Without the time, effort, and care of caregivers and volunteers, many nonprofits would suffer. Using an organization’s mission to support all affected by a disease can lead to positive outcomes and work to eliminate an issue.
The Alzheimer’s Association is the world’s leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research for 5.4 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s and the people who care for them. Charlena Wynn is currently pursuing her Master’s of Arts in Liberal Studies at NC State University with a concentration in examining the construction of Blackness in contemporary United States museums.