The Alzheimer’s Association’s Fort Bend Community Forum is trying to change how people can support these members of the community who find day-to-day conversations challenging.
Last week the association invited members of the community to an open forum at the University of Houston, Sugar Land campus, hosted by local Alzheimer’s advocate Karyn Dean. At a previous forum in Richmond, Alzheimer’s Association board member Roy Cordes presented the program.
Ann Marie McDonald, the Chief Programs Officer for the Alzheimer’s Association Houston and Southeast Texas Chapter, said the forum, or town hall meeting, was a way for people to find information they need to help people with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
After the town hall meeting, the Alzheimer’s Association will bring back information to the Fort Bend community to show ways they can help everyone who may be affected by Alzheimer’s – be it caretaker, medical professional and of course, the patient themselves.
“We look at what people have said and then we try to figure out what we can do to help meet that need in that community,” McDonald said.
They will then look for people to partner with in Fort Bend County to present educational programs or support groups.
Jessica Van Sweringen, a medical student at the University of Texas, was on hand as a volunteer for the event.
“We really want to know what’s going on in Sugar Land, what are community members experiences with Alzheimer’s disease, with senior care, how the Alzheimer’s Association can better support everyone in Sugar Land and the Fort Bend County area,” she said.
J.J. Lassberg, the marketing and communication manager for the local Alzheimer’s chapter, said the Alzheimer’s Association is reaching out to communities across the entire country as well.
“We want to get an idea of how to work within our communities; how to be as effective and beneficial as possible,” Lassberg said.
She said when families have been diagnosed with the disease, they sometimes don’t know what to do next.
“I honestly think the two places which we have, that are hands down our most successful and easily accessible tools, are our help line, which most people don’t know about. It’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, free in over 200 languages, for anyone who has any questions about any thing to do with Alzheimer’s or dementia. They can reach out to us for free. It’s not a recorded service, there’s a real person to answer your call. Any questions, any support you need, even if it’s 2 o’clock in the morning and you don’t know where to turn, please give us a call because someone is there who will answer the phone.”
The other tool, said Lassberg, is their website which offers information on everything from facts about the disease, to how to volunteer, to the 10 warning signs.
Some signs may be someone losing their way, struggling with math that used to be second nature, mixing up words, personality changes.
“General forgetfulness is not Alzheimer’s. Leaving your keys in the refrigerator, however, may be a sign something is going on.”
The Alzheimer’s Association has a three-prong mission, said Lassberg: one, to fund research and find a cure; the second to support all those affected; and the third to let people know what they can do for their own health and their own future.
“We work diligently to change the perception of the disease from ‘the disease our grandmothers’ get’ to a public health crisis. It’s not just an ‘old timers disease.’ One in five people develop the disease over the age of 65, and 1 in 3 over the age of 85. Women are two-thirds more likely to develop Alzheimer’s,” Lassberg said.
“The community forum gives them an opportunity to hear from community members they interact with on a regular basis, and focus on what can be done for Fort Bend County to provide services and programs for caregivers, medical professionals and people with dementia and Alzheimer’s,” Outreach Specialist Freddy Batres said.
Their biggest fundraising event is coming soon and they want the community to know everything about joining the fight for Alzheimer’s first survivor.
It’s called The Fort Bend County Walk.
There will be a Fort Bend New Team Kickoff Party on Thursday, Aug. 30, from 6-7 p.m. at the Safari Texas Ranch in Richmond. It’s the first step to take before going to the Fort Bend County Walk on Oct. 27 in Sugar Land.
For more information, visit www.alz.org, or on Facebook @alztexFortBend, or call 1-800-272-3900.