by Carrie Jackson
With more than five million people in the United States suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and another 15 million people acting as caregivers, the need for resources and support is growing. The Alzheimer’s Association is the largest nonprofit voluntary health organization in the country dedicated to research, education and support for the disease. The Delaware Valley Chapter, headquartered in Philadelphia, with a new suburban regional office located in Montgomery County, offers a wide range of programs and services to local people living with Alzheimer’s, as well as their family members, caregivers and loved ones.
Alzheimer’s disease currently has no cure or proven treatment. It is caused by buildup in the brain from two proteins, tau and beta amyloid, which disrupts communication between cells and results in memory loss, disorientation and problems with language, judgment and orientation. Eventually the damage to the nerve cells in the brain causes the body to shut down, resulting in death.
Weekly support groups, which are led by trained volunteer facilitators, are conveniently located across southeastern Pennsylvania, including Bucks and Montgomery counties. They are safe places for caregivers to share best practices, discuss challenges, make connections and find empowerment from other group members in a confidential, supportive environment. Caroline Stritz, who co-facilitates a group in Elkins Park that meets in the evenings every third Wednesday, explains, “Caregiver support groups give family members the opportunity to connect with others in similar situations and share ideas that can make a difference in dealing with a wide range of challenges. Sometimes what helps the most is talking to someone who’s been there and who knows how difficult it is to see a loved one decline and require help doing things they used to take for granted.”
The chapter provides free education programs, specialized conferences, professional training, early stage initiatives, fundraising events and resources. The programming, through its Julie H.C. Bailey Learning Academy, provides healthcare providers and lay caregivers with the tools and education to ensure people with Alzheimer’s receive professional, respectful, appropriate care. These programs are free and just require advanced registration.
The Alzheimer’s Association also operates a 24/7 helpline, 800-272-3900. “Anyone who has questions about Alzheimer’s or a related disorder, our programs and services, or needs help finding resources for the family can call us any time, any day of the year—even holidays, and someone will answer the phone to guide them,” says Krista McKay, the Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter’s director of programs and services.
With the help of support groups, programs and community engagement, the Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley vows to work to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through research, provide care and support for all affected, and reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.
The Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter is headquartered at 399 Market St., Ste. 102, Philadelphia. For more information, call the 24/7 helpline at 800-272-3900 or visit alz.org/delval.
Carrie Jackson is a Chicagoland writer, advocate, and speaker. Connect with Carrie at email@example.com.