Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of the aging process. It is a degenerative, incurable disease of the brain. The impact on individuals, families and our health care system makes this one of our greatest medical, social and fiscal challenges. Today, there are over 100,000 individuals from all socio-economic, ethnic and racial groups afflicted with Alzheimer’s in Arizona and Southern Nevada. Increasing age is the greatest risk factor, as one in ten individuals age 65+ and nearly half of those age 85+ are affected.
The vision of the Alzheimer’s Association is a world without this tragic disease. Until this vision can become a reality, however, our nationwide mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research, to provide and enhance care and support for all affected, and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. The purpose of the Desert Southwest Chapter is to equip, energize and ultimately empower individuals, families and communities to provide compassionate and effective dementia care and support in Arizona and Southern Nevada. In 1981, a group of people who had loved ones with the disease started the Alzheimer’s Association. Chapters were formed in Phoenix, Tucson, Prescott, and Las Vegas to provide education, support and services. In 2000, the three Arizona chapters united to form a statewide organization. Southern Nevada and Arizona joined in 2002 to form the Desert Southwest Chapter. While our Chapter is affiliated with the National Alzheimer’s Association, we are separately incorporated and governed locally by a volunteer Board of Directors with representation from all four Regions: Central Arizona, Northern Arizona, Southern Arizona, and Southern Nevada. A volunteer Regional Leadership Council serves as an active advisory committee in each area, helping us to ensure that community needs are met to the best of our limited resource capacity. We have a small professional staff of 30 employees, assisted by over 800 volunteers who strive to make a difference in the lives of people struggling with Alzheimer’s and related disorders in our communities. When we consider our area’s geographic size (158,287 square miles), population size (approximately 8 million), and the diversity of our communities, the importance of our volunteers and collaborations with other organizations cannot be overestimated.
Today, the Chapter impacts thousands of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and their families in the two-state area through its six core programs:
Helpline/ Information and Referral offers 24/7 confidential, personal telephone support to individuals by our trained specialists. We provide callers with information about the disease, support and referrals to local resources.
Family Care Consultation provides individualized assessment, guidance on care options, interventions and resources to address immediate needs and to help plan for the future.
Support Groups are regularly scheduled sessions of small groups of caregivers and/or individuals in the early stage of the disease who share information and experiences, build new skills, and offer peer support and ideas about issues related to dementia. Groups are facilitated by trained and knowledgeable volunteers.
Education Program offers sessions designed to increase awareness about the disease and help families and professionals increase knowledge and skills to enhance the care of persons with dementia.
MedicAlert + Safe Return is a nationwide identification and education program that reduces the risks associated with wandering and mobilizes first responders should an individual become lost. The program provides peace of mind to the caregiver and increased safety for the person with dementia.
Early Stage Program represents the newly adopted sixth Core Program for the Chapter with specific activities focused on engaging, encouraging and empowering impacted individuals to fully utilize their strengths and capacities.
The intended outcomes of our programs include:
• To increase awareness and knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease and available resources. • To empower individuals and families to better cope with and plan for disease progression and memory loss. • To reduce the isolation of the family caregiving experience and build social support. • To enhance the quality of life for both the person with the disease and the family caregiver.