by Lori Harasta
Women are at the epicenter of Alzheimer’s disease. If you are a woman, you have twice the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease as does a man. In addition, women comprise 65 % of the population that endure physical and mental stress caring for Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers.
In 2014, the Alzheimer’s Association created the first-of-its-kind Women’s Alzheimer’s Research Initiative where 100% of the proceeds support women’s brain research. (http://thewomensalzheimerschallenge.org/)
To draw awareness for the initiative, California Central Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association Member Sharon Bick, RN, owner of Meditech Health Services in Ventura, held a reception at her ocean-front home last month.
Central Chapter Board Member Teresa Valko shared about her experience with Alzheimer’s disease. She has had more than her share of experience–100% of her mother’s family has had Alzheimer’s. She has lost a brother and a sister to the disease.
Teresa learned from her uncle how to be patient and caring toward someone with Alzheimer’s when she visited with him and her grandmother one summer. When Grandma asked, “Son, have you been traveling?” He said, “Why yes, I was in St. Louis!” and told tales of his travels. When she asked again a few moments later, he replied, “Why yes, I was in New Orleans!” and then he would tell all about that adventure. And so on. He demonstrated to Teresa how to let his mother’s reality be his, and to do so with grace.
Teresa is passionate about this initiative. “I feel compelled to get active and support the Alzheimer’s Association. The Alzheimer’s Association is the world leader in advancing research and care and I want to be part of that. There will be an end to this disease and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure my children will not be burdened with my care and that they never know the personal experience of this disease.”
Recently, through the work of Ventura County Area Agency on Aging (VCAAA), Ventura County was recently certified as a “dementia friendly” county. It is one of the first in the nation to do so. Plans are being developed to educate the community on how to make “small changes” that will make huge differences in how we treat those among us who suffer from dementia. A sneak preview can be seen on You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fz8ACEu7Lho
According to Christine Voth, Manager of Business Strategy and Strategic Planning for VCAAA who attended the gathering at the Bicks’ home, “I see that the Women’s Initiative is a critical component of Dementia Friendly Ventura County, especially given that statistics are now being released that show older women are twice as likely to get Alzheimer’s disease than men.”
The gathering at the Bick home demonstrated Sharon’s commitment to the cause. “I believe we need to get people involved to change how we deal with Alzheimer’s in our community.”