In 1983, President Ronald Reagan, who was later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, designated November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. President Bill Clinton named the week of Thanksgiving as a time to honor caregivers in 1997, and that has expanded to National Family Caregivers Month.
As an organization founded by caregivers, the Alzheimer’s Association applauds caregivers and hopes to make their efforts a little easier year round with innovative resources that have been designed specifically with families in mind.
“Alzheimer’s is a progressive and fatal disease that affects not only the individual with Alzheimer’s, but also the loved ones around them,” said Heather Hershberger, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter. “More than 326,000 Hoosiers are currently caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. The importance is now greater than ever to extend our support to caregivers.”
This year the Alzheimer’s Association launched two free resources for families impacted by Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s Association Alzheimer’s Navigator is an online tool to help caregivers and people with dementia evaluate their needs, identify action steps and connect with local programs and services. Developed with feedback from people living with Alzheimer’s and caregivers, Alzheimer’s Navigator also allows users to reassess needs and adjust care plans as the disease progresses.
ALZConnected, powered by the Alzheimer’s Association, is the first social networking community designed for people living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.
Following a brief welcome survey, Alzheimer’s Navigator users complete a set of focused questions. Their responses result in customized action steps ranging from activities of daily life to legal and financial planning to safety precautions. Each user’s action plan is specific to current needs and is designed to change as the disease progresses.
When local resources are needed, Alzheimer’s Navigator works in conjunction with Community Resource Finder, an online search engine, to link the user to community programs and resources such as adult day care or long-term care facilities.
Alzheimer’s Navigator users can also create and manage care teams so that multiple people can participate in the customized action plan, enabling long-distance caregivers to be involved and primary caregivers to share the responsibility. Alzheimer’s Navigator is at www.alzheimersnavigator.org.
ALZConnected is a specialized social network that allows members to connect and communicate with people who understand their unique challenges, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They can also pose questions and offer solutions to dementia-related issues, create public and private groups organized around a dedicated topic and contribute to message boards.
ALZConnected combines the features of many social networking sites and the popular Alzheimer’s Association’s message boards. Members create “connections” by extending and receiving invitations. ALZConnected may be accessed at www.alzconnected.org.
There are 120,000 people living with Alzheimer’s and 326,151 unpaid caregivers in Indiana, according to the Alzheimer’s Association 2012 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts & Figures.
The Alzheimer’s Association will continue to assist families in a variety of ways to best meet their needs. Alzheimer’s Association chapters nationwide facilitate more than 4,500 support groups and conduct 20,000 education programs annually.
The Alzheimer’s Association provides consultation to 250,000 people in need each year through its toll-free 24/7 Helpline (1-800-272-3900). The only one of its kind, the Helpline is staffed by master’s-level counselors and provides information and guidance in more than 170 languages and dialects.
For more information on Alzheimer’s disease or available resources, visit alz.org/indiana or call 1-800-272-3900.