When President Ronald Reagan designated the first National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in 1983, fewer than two million Americans had Alzheimer’s disease; today, the number of people with the disease has soared to nearly 5.5 million and by 2050 as the population ages the number could reach 16 million.* President Reagan himself lived with Alzheimer’s disease for nearly a decade, and complications from the disease were a contributing factor in his death.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that damages and eventually destroys brain cells, leading to a loss of memory, thinking, and other brain functions. It is ultimately fatal. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, every 66 seconds someone in the United States develops the disease.
Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia also take a heavy toll on the caregivers and families. In fact, twice as many caregivers of individuals with dementia indicate substantial emotional, financial, and physical difficulties than caregivers of people without dementia.
This is where Easter Seals Serving DC|MD|VA’s Adult and Senior Services fill a critical need. Our Adult and Senior Care Centers offer benefits to both caregivers and people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Every one of our participants receives the vital health and welfare services they need, administered by caring and dedicated professionals.
For people with Alzheimer's disease and dementia, the Centers serve as a place outside the home for people to remain active in the community and socialize with their peers. A place where they receive health and supportive services, such as physical therapy, speech therapy, medical supervision and assistance with personal care. A place to engage in fun activities like art, music, and exercise.
In addition to the respite that caregivers get when their loved one is at an Easter Seals Center, we have monthly support groups to ensure that their unique needs are addressed, they interact with peers, and they remain strong and healthy to provide the care their loved ones need.
The story of Gary and his family illustrates how our Adult Day Services and Caregiver Support combine to keep Gary in the community. At the young age of 55, Gary was diagnosed with progressive nonfluent aphasia, a form of dementia. Gary’s ability to communicate deteriorated quickly, and he is no longer able to speak, read, write, or work.
His wife Pam struggled to balance taking care of her family, working, and being a caregiver. When Gary’s condition worsened and he could no longer be left alone to do daily tasks, she had to find other options. “Home-care just didn’t make sense for us, Gary is so independent and he needed an environment that would encourage socialization and provide engaging activities,” said Pam. She made the decision to turn to Easter Seals. “Since Gary has started at Easter Seals I finally feel like I have support,” said Pam. “He is able to live a better quality of life, I am so thankful that when he comes here he is engaged.”
Pam worked with Easter Seals staff to create a reference book to help Gary communicate with his caregivers. The book has images he can point to based on situations and categories, such as food, family members, and health and wellness questions. This allows Gary to be heard and allows his caregivers to better understand his needs. Gary can even let you know what his favorite Easter Seals activities are by pointing to ring toss, art, bowling, the jukebox music game, and gardening.
Easter Seals is not only providing Gary with the tools he needs to thrive in his environment, we are allowing Pam to get the respite she needs to continue to be strong for her family.
While there may be no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and other associated brain diseases such as Gary’s at this time, Easter Seals offers Pam and all the caregivers and families of our participants an affordable and stimulating, community-based alternative to nursing homes and in-home care.
*Now designated as National Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month. All statistics and information about the disease taken from the Alzheimer’s Association.