2014 Update on Alzheimer’s

January 15, 2015  
Filed under Health & Wellness, News

By Martha Richardson
Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging. It is a brain disease that progressively robs people of their ability to remember, think, understand and communicate. As the sixth leading cause of death, Alzheimer’s remains the only disease of the top 10 without a way to prevent, cure or even slow its progression.
The Alzheimer’s Association is leading the charge to change the trajectory of this disease. In 2012, the organization undertook a strategic assessment process to look at the external environment and our internal capacity and potential in order to determine what is necessary to change the trajectory of Alzheimer’s disease and to support people living with Alzheimer’s today and in the future. As a result of this collaborative, organization-wide work, a bold, 10-year vision for research and care and support was created.
To assure we remain focused on this shared vision, each chapter and the national office has broken its timeline into three, three-year implementation plans to propel our vision forward. I am pleased to share some of the highlights of the 2015-2017 Vermont Chapter Plan.

Expanding research
Leading experts have testified that a yearly investment of $2 billion in dementia-focused National Institutes of Health (NIH) research will be needed to meet the National Alzheimer’s Plan goal to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s by 2025.
Government investment through NIH funding can and has profoundly changed the trajectory of diseases such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. By raising our voices in a concerted effort, we can garner the same level of investment for Alzheimer’s disease. Chapters throughout the United States are rallying grassroots advocates to educate their elected officials about Alzheimer’s and mandate that their elected officials become educated about Alzheimer’s and the undeniable need to increase NIH funding. Over 1,500 Vermonters have joined ranks as Alzheimer’s Advocates and Ambassadors to spread the message that investment in Alzheimer’s research can’t wait.

Enhancing care and support
Those who are currently living with the disease remain central to our focus. The Vermont Chapter is a center of understanding and support for people living with Alzheimer’s or dementia and their caregivers, and we have expanded our network of community partners who are working alongside us to enhance support and services here in Vermont.
The Vermont Chapter provides free programs and services to increase knowledge and understanding about dementia, support caregivers and families and engage those with dementia. Our 24/7 Helpline (1-800-272-3900) serves people with memory loss, caregivers, health care professionals and the public with information and education, connection to local resources and issue-specific one-on-one support from masters level dementia experts.
As more people are referred to the Alzheimer’s Association, the Vermont Chapter continues to expand access to its free education programs. Thanks to a multi-year grant from an anonymous donor, the Alzheimer’s Association has partnered with Vermont Interactive Technologies (VIT) to efficiently expand public accessibility to education programs. With VIT studios located in Bennington, Brattleboro, Johnson, Lyndonville, Montpelier, Middlebury, Newport, Randolph Center, Rutland, Springfield, St. Albans, White River Junction and Williston, Vermonters can conveniently participate in dementia education programs led by Alzheimer’s care professionals while remaining close to their home communities. Workshop topics include Know the 10 Signs; The Basics: Memory Loss, Dementia & Alzheimer’s; Legal & Financial Planning; plus sessions focusing exclusively on the needs of early, middle and late stage caregivers.
The past year also brought the launch of The New Normal, a program for people in the beginning stage of Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. It offers a fun and comfortable way to get out, get active and get connected. Members of The New Normal work together to identify social events and community-based activities they feel are worth exploring while building bonds with others on the same path of adjusting to life with dementia.
Recognizing that social connections are an important thread of well-being, the Vermont Chapter has partnered with the Center on Aging and dedicated community members to develop the Queen City Memory Cafe. Meeting monthly, the Queen City Memory Cafe offers a social time and place for people with dementia and their support partner to talk, laugh and celebrate feeling understood and connected. Those impacted by Alzheimer’s or a related dementia also have access to more eight support groups held statewide, as well as telephone-based groups for persons with Alzheimer’s and for caregivers.

The path to success
While increased research and enhanced care and support are our goals, the path to achieving them requires significant revenue, advancement of public policy and growing public concern and awareness.
This year was a banner year for the Vermont Chapter. The fiscal year closed on June 30 with revenues of $539,000 (unaudited), representing a doubling of Chapter income over the past five years. Its advocacy efforts saw Senators Leahy and Sanders and Congressman Welch sign on as co-sponsors of the Hope for Alzheimer’s Act and voice their support for increased investment in Alzheimer’s research funding and the inclusion of $120 million in the 2015 federal budget. On the state level, the introduction of work groups affiliated with the Vermont Governor’s Commission on Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders has engaged dementia experts and stakeholders as advisors to the Commission.
Thanks to the likes of Alzheimer’s Celebrity Champions Grace Potter and Seth Rogen, statewide media coverage registered a dramatic upswing in 2014. Vermont native Grace Potter served as the Vermont chapter’s Mission Speaker at the 2014 Reason to Hope dinner. After sharing recollections of her grandfather’s struggles with Alzheimer’s, she gave a solo acoustic performance for the packed hotel ballroom. In total, the 2014 dinner raised more than $100,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association, reaching a fundraising milestone for the Vermont Chapter.
Hilarity for Charity™ (HFC) is a movement led by comedian Seth Rogen to inspire change and raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease among the millennial generation. HFC U is a nationwide program that encourages and supports college programs to throw their very own Hilarity for Charity events. University of Vermont’s Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE) fraternity, under the exuberant leadership of Fraternity President John Fox and Richard “Bubba” Casella, raised more than $27,000 and won the 2014 HFC U national competition. Rogen and his wife Lauren Miller, co-founder of HFC, came to Burlington to personally congratulate PIKE on their accomplishments and host a film premiere at the Roxy theater. The 2015 HFC U competition is currently underway. PIKE has partnered with the Alpha Chi Omega sorority to double their fundraising efforts and retain the national title.
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the Alzheimer’s Association’s largest annual fundraiser and provides nearly one third of the Vermont Chapter’s annual budget. Thanks to the efforts of more than 1,500 participants, 170 teams and hundreds of volunteers, Vermont’s five walks raised more than $250,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association, exceeding last year’s numbers by 44 percent and shattering more fundraising records for the Vermont Chapter.
For more information on Alzheimer’s disease or available resources, visit alz.org or call 1-800-272-3900. If you want to get involved, call (802) 316-3839 or email mrichardson1@alz.org.

Martha Richardson is the Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association Vermont Chapter.


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