FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | April 27, 2006
Houses of Worship Nationwide to Raise Alzheimer's Awareness
NEW YORK , NY — When congregants at Temple Beth Shalom in Saint James, NY leave services on Saturday, May 6, they will have the opportunity to pick up educational materials that have nothing to do with religion. Instead, the information will be about Alzheimer's disease, a brain disorder that affects five million Americans of all religious and ethnic groups.
“I don't think Alzheimer's is a disease with a Jewish connection to it, but that's even more of a reason to address the issue: it's not normally on our radar screen,” said Rabbi Alan Londy, the congregation's spiritual leader. “Synagogues have a responsibility to raise consciousness about these issues.”
With that in mind, Temple Beth Shalom will be among several hundred houses of worship, senior centers and other facilities nationwide that will be participating in Memory Care Connection, a national educational initiative of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) that will take place on May 6 and May 7.
The event marks a major effort by AFA to engage houses of worship in Alzheimer's disease awareness on a broad scale, and coincides with Older Americans Month in May—a significant connection since Alzheimer's disease primarily affects older people, including one in ten aged 65 and older and nearly one in two aged 85 and older. The incidence of the disease is expected to triple by mid-century.
Kene Holliday, an actor known for his roles in “Matlock” and “Carter Country,” is encouraging anyone concerned about memory problems to stop by a participating site.
“Education about Alzheimer's disease would have saved my family considerable distress. You can help yourself and your family by learning as much as you can about this disease,” said Holliday, whose mother has Alzheimer's disease.
O rganizations will be distributing educational materials about memory health, Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses, caregiving strategies and community resources. Some also will be holding workshops or offering free, confidential memory screenings. Memory screenings, which consist of a series of questions and tasks, are not used to diagnose any particular illness and do not replace a full medical examination by a qualified healthcare professional.
AFA strategically involved houses of worship in this effort “to bring communities together for awareness,” according to Eric J. Hall, chief executive officer of the national nonprofit organization.
“By offering this information in familiar and comfortable surroundings, our hope is we can remove some of the stigma that surrounds this disease—and encourage people to reach out for help,” Hall said.
A recent AFA survey conducted by Harris Interactive found that concern about stigma and denial of symptoms can delay a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease by more than two years on average after symptoms appear.
Hall added that even people without memory concerns can benefit from Memory Care Connection.
“ Whether young adults, aging baby boomers or older Americans, it is in everyone's best interest to learn about ways to help preserve their memory and age successfully. We should be just as interested in the health of our brain as we are about other parts of our body,” Hall said.
Research confirms that lifestyle changes, such as physical and mental exercises, can aid memory health.
The East Hill Baptist Church, Tallahassee, FL, has jumped aboard “to try to educate people about things they can do to help themselves,” said Donna Sowell, the pastor's wife and a nurse who is coordinating the event.
The church, which has many elderly among its 500 congregants, will be holding its event after a senior adult luncheon that follows services on May 7. The house of worship will be among those sites offering free memory screenings in addition to educational materials.
“So many people wonder, ‘Do I have a problem?' They can use the screening as a tool to really find out,” she said.
Canyon Lake United Methodist Church, Rapid City, SD, hopes its involvement—on both May 6 and May 7—will send a powerful message to families currently living with Alzheimer's disease.
“We want them to know that there are people who care about the caregiver. It's okay to say, ‘My husband has Alzheimer's disease,' instead of covering it up,” said Rebecca Crosswait, a parish nurse at the 800-congregant church.
For information or to find a participating site, call (toll-free) 866-AFA-8484 or visit www.togetherforcare.org.
Memory Care Connection is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Forest Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
The Alzheimer's Foundation of America, headquartered in New York, is a national nonprofit organization that focuses on providing optimal care to individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, and their families. AFA's services include a toll-free hotline, counseling, educational materials, and a free caregiver magazine. For information, call (toll-free) 866-AFA-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org .
Contact: Carol Steinberg