FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | December 10, 2007
Alzheimer's Foundation of America Kicks Off Teens Initiatives
NEW YORK, NY—Six years ago, at the age of nine, Courtney Henley of Westbury, NY found herself in a situation unlike most other kids her age. Her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease when he was only 36, and, since then, Henley has painstakingly watched her father's illness progress.
As she has helped her mother with some caregiving responsibilities and has stood by her dad's side through various hospital stays, Henley has found refuge in AFA Teens, a branch of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA).
“In my house, my family is always busy taking care of my dad, so if I have a question, AFA Teens is always there as a place for support and education about the disease,” said Henley, who is currently a junior in high school.
Due to the growing incidence of Alzheimer's disease and the number of teenagers thrust into caregiving roles, AFA now is stepping up its AFA Teens division into high gear. It is introducing the first of its kind “AFA Teens for Alzheimer's Awareness College Scholarship” and a newly designed Web site specifically for teens, and is encouraging youngsters to start up AFA Teens chapters nationwide.
“This unique branch of AFA and the scholarship, in particular, offers teens the chance to speak their minds while showing them the power they have to generate awareness for such an important cause,” said Eric J. Hall, AFA's chief executive officer.
Beginning in 2008, AFA will award a $5,000 scholarship to one deserving college-bound student annually, to be used toward the first year of the student's education at a four-year college or university. The scholarship application asks high school juniors and seniors to write a 1,200 word essay giving thoughtful consideration to “the impact Alzheimer's disease has on their own lives and what they have learned about themselves, their family and/or their community in coping with the disease.” The deadline for applications is February 15 of each year. For more details and an application visit www.afateens.org .
In a further effort to provide teens with resources, AFA recently unveiled a newly designed Web site, www.afateens.org . The Web site features a contemporary look and gives teens the opportunity to connect with each other through a chat room and to express their thoughts on a bulletin board. The site also offers a comprehensive understanding of the disease, including its symptoms, communication techniques and strategies to cope with challenging behaviors and other issues.
In addition, AFA is aggressively looking to expand its AFA Teens branch through the involvement of more middle school and high school students nationwide. The new Web site provides details on how to begin a chapter at a school or community organization.
Henley is among those getting even more involved: she plans to establish an AFA Teens chapter at Westbury High School, where she is a student.
“I've learned that there are many kids in my school who have grandparents, aunts, uncles and other relatives with the disease…by starting a chapter at my high school, I hope to raise awareness among teenagers like myself. Who knows? The person who will one day find the cure for Alzheimer's disease might be someone who was involved in my local chapter,” said Henley.
Others like Henley also are thrust into handling caregiving responsibilities at a young age. A s urvey by the National Alliance for Caregiving and United Hospital Fund found that more than one million children nationwide take care of sick or disabled parents and grandparents; Alzheimer's disease and dementia were the most prevalent illnesses.
It is projected that the number of Americans with Alzheimer's disease could more than triple to 16 million by mid-century. While most people with Alzheimer's disease are aged 65 or older, about 500,000 Americans have a form of Alzheimer's disease called early-onset, which can affect adults as young as in their 30's.
Even teenagers whose families are not directly affected by Alzheimer's disease are joining AFA Teens. Alan Katz recently started AFA Teens at Watchung Hills High School in Warren, NJ after several years of doing volunteer work with individuals with Alzheimer's disease.
“I couldn't escape the feeling that more help was needed,” he said. “Whether teens are touched by Alzheimer's disease through personal experiences in their families or by being involved in community service, the AFA Teens organization is the answer—an opportunity to raise awareness in school communities, get other people involved and coordinate local efforts.”
AFA Teens was founded in 2002 by Neha Chauhan, then a high school student, who wanted to educate and engage teenagers in the cause. Its mission is to provide education, counseling and support to young family members, enable teens to share feelings and experiences with their peers and experts, and refer families to various support services available at AFA and its member organizations.
Chauhan of Staten Island, NY is thrilled about the division's growth and the new developments.
“Through these initiatives, AFA Teens will continue to bridge the generation gap between teenagers and those with Alzheimer's disease,” said Chauhan, now a senior at Harvard University.
For more information about AFA Teens, visit www.afateens.org or call 866-232-8484.
The Alzheimer's Foundation of America is a national nonprofit organization headquartered in New York and made up of hundreds of member organizations that provide hands-on programs to meet the educational, emotional, practical and social needs
of families affected by Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses. For more information, visit www.alzfdn.org or call 866-232-8484.
Contact: Carol Steinberg
Alzheimer's Foundation of America 866.AFA.8484