Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month: It IS a social problem

Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month: It IS a social problem

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month and No Bags To Check is going purple with a series dedicated to this important cause and the Alzheimer’s Association’s The Longest Day event on June 21st. This guest post is by Amy Schlegel.

My introduction to Alzheimer's disease occurred as a college student when I was a member of Sigma Kappa sorority. The Alzheimer's Association was one of the sorority's philanthropies.  Currently, I work at a life insurance company who is a national sponsor of the Alzheimer’s Association and the sponsor of Forget-Me-Not Days, which occurs every spring.  As a result of my current position, I was able to become a member of the Junior Board of the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Illinois Chapter.

As a Junior Board member I have come face to face with other members who are dealing with a loved one who is currently suffering or passed away as a result of the disease.  Alzheimer’s is not an “old persons” disease, a widely misunderstood thought by many today.  In just one year, three board members lost their parents to the disease – parents who were in their 60-70’s.  By today's standards, 60-70 years is not that old.

As I thought about these individuals, knowing their situations and the frustrations that go along with having a family member with Alzheimer’s, it occurred to me that we do not hear enough about this disease being a society problem. In my opinion, this is not a growing social problem, it IS a social problem. We live in an aging society, however our focus is on the positive, we are living longer, but we ignore the negative which means a higher number of individuals will be diagnosed with Alzheimer's and other related dementias.

After the death of President Reagan, there was a slight increase in media coverage, but it was not until 2012 that our government stated this is "one of the most feared health conditions" and vowed to put together a strategy to combat the disease. Unless a vaccine is discovered, a cure, or better treatment drugs are found, this disease is definitely going to skyrocket.

So what does this mean as a society problem? One thing, before a person is officially diagnosed or they are still allowed to drive -- they could be involved in a car accident due to lapse in judgment or cause a home fire from their impaired abilities in daily activities such as microwaving leftovers for 30 minutes instead of only 3 minutes. Let me tell you a story I was told about a widowed grandmother living in Florida. One day she went over to a neighbor's adamant there was an intruder in her home. The neighbor's did only what they knew what to do, which was call the police. The responding officer was quick to recognize the situation and figured out that when looking into the mirror she did not recognize herself. It was shortly thereafter she was tested and diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.

This story is an example of what I am referring to as a society problem. None of us want to encounter this situation, but if we are educated, we can know what to look for and appropriately deal with something similar. So many of us have no problem helping out kids, but somehow we don't want to have much to do with helping adults. However, I guarantee that if you had a sick relative, you want to have a caring, helping individual nearby.

One should never be alone when caring for a family member who has been diagnosed.  The Junior Board recognized a need for a peer-to-peer mentoring program for young professionals who have a loved one who has been diagnosed.  pALZ™ was formed so those touched by dementia can benefit from someone who has a similar experience.  For more information on pALZ™, please visit our website.

Alzheimer's Disease has not affected any of my relatives (yet), but I am all too familiar with the impact that it has on a family.   This is a disease that deserves vast attention and the public image enhanced to cast this disease as a critical social problem that everyone should care about.

Illinois native Amy Schlegel serves on the Junior Board of the Greater Illinois Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. Besides sharing a commitment to Alzheimer's awareness as Sigma Kappa sorority sisters and beyond, we also share a love of brunch and funny cats. The Junior Board is hosting their 4th Annual Summer Cocktail Event in July. For tickets and more information, look here

To support the Alzheimer's Association, the world's leading organization in Alzheimer's care, support, and research, and The Longest Day event, click here. Your support matters.

Wait a minute- isn't this usually a travel blog? You're right, but for the next three weeks I'm dedicating my little internet real estate to this cause that is near and dear to my heart. I hope it encourages people to share information, stories, and support. Be sure to subscribe to the blog so you don't miss a post and you can also follow on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.
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Filed under: Alzheimer's

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