“People I know and love have been afflicted with this disease. People I love have died from Alzheimer’s.” I don’t know anybody who doesn’t know somebody who has – or had – Alzheimer’s. My mother had Alzheimer’s and passed away in 2002. In 2010, 1,300 Oregonians died from Alzheimer’s. Today more than 76,000 Oregonians age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s. Experts estimate that number will be 90,000 in 2020 and 110,000 in 2025, up 93% from 2000. And, Ruth was quick to point out, it is not just the elderly who get the disease. Some get early onset Alzheimer’s, and she can name some. Multiply those numbers by the number of family caregivers whose lives are exponentially changed by a loved one’s disease and by the cost of professional care for so many others, and the impact on all of us is enormous.
Kathleen Cody, executive director of the Oregon Chapter, acknowledges that research is not keeping up with the disease. “We are making great strides. We are focused and we have aggressive goals. The research money will come through our hard work, but it’s an uphill battle.” “There is no denying that, with no cure and no reliable drugs to slow it down, the end is the same for everyone,” she says. “The bubble of baby boomers aging creates a real urgency.”
How, then, can the Alzheimer’s Association call its upcom- ing series of breakfasts “Reason to Hope”? “We are all about public awareness,” Kathleen says. “People are scared, but one of the biggest factors in fear is the lack of knowledge. The best way to mitigate that fear is to become informed. People with information can feel empowered.” The Oregon Chapter does a great deal of regional outreach, offering services, classes, support groups, information and resources. It serves the entire state, with a Portland office and a regional office in Eugene. It supports public policy, research and advocacy on behalf of research, the patients and their caregivers. Caregiver support is crucial.
Experts agree that early diagnosis makes a huge difference in the lives of everybody affected, but it is often a tough diagnosis to make. The Alzheimer’s Association reaches out to doctors who see patients with very few symptoms to help them make an early, accurate diagnosis. “People want to make decisions about the inevitable future while they have the capability and the resources, and there is relief and power in that,” says Kathleen. They want to spend their time and resources doing what is important to them: be- ing with family, enjoying fun activities, enjoying life even after receiving a devastating diagnosis.
One innovative, creative resource in Portland is called Memories in the Making. It is an art therapy program that meets weekly for eight weeks. There are snacks, music, lots of laughing and socializing, and plenty of art. Kathleen reports that one participant said, “I thought I’d forgotten how to do this.” Another said, “I’m glad I have Alzheimer’s so I can come to this class.”
“We help them give themselves the gift of beauty,” Kathleen says.
REASON TO HOPE
According to Development Director Tracy Morgan, the Reason to Hope breakfasts are an opportunity to diminish the stigma attached to Alzheimer’s by bringing together people who know a lot about Alzheimer’s and people who know very little except their fear. Speakers tell their inspirational stories. The association shares information about their services and how they positively impact the lives of both patients and caregivers. In one short hour, people feel motivated and empowered and, hopefully, the association gets much-needed support from the community. The cost of the breakfast is defrayed by generous donors, so designated table captains can invite their friends to be their guests for the event. Tracy encourages anyone interested in attending one of the five regional breakfasts to call or register online. She will line you up a spot at a really great table.
Ruth Menashe believes in Reason to Hope. “We have to research and research takes money,” she says. “This has not been properly funded, and now we have an aging population and many, many people will be stricken.” “People need to help.”
Liz Rabiner Lippoff is a Portland freelance writer and a medical marketing specialist at Liz, Ink: Lizink.biz.
Reason to Hope breakfasts
All are from 7:30-8:30 am. For a seat at a table, call Kate Ray at 503-416-0201 or go to act.alz.org/rthoregon.
CASCADE COAST EUGENE | May 1 Hilton Eugene & Conference Center 66 East 6th Ave. | Eugene, OR 97401
CASCADE COAST ROSEBURG | May 9 Douglas County Fairgrounds 2110 Frear St. | Roseburg, OR 97471
PORTLAND | May 15 The Governor Hotel 614 SW 11th ave. | Portland, OR 97205
SOUTHERN OREGON | May 23 Ashland Springs Hotel 212 E Main St. | Ashland, OR 97520
CENTRAL OREGON | May 30 St. Charles Medical Center 2500 NE Neff Road | Bend, OR 97701