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In My Community
Lou Bruner - Grassroots Outreach in the African American Community
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Lou and Debra Bruner

Lou Bruner retired shortly after his wife, Debra, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2009.  He spent more time enjoying life with Debra.  But being a career professional, Lou still had a lot of ideas for how he could make a difference in the Next Act of his life.  Ultimately, he became a volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association and has helped spearhead an amazing grass roots outreach effort in the African American community in Milwaukee. 

In the spring of 2014, Lou Bruner designed a plan to reach the elderly African American population on their own turf.  “Churches, the faith based community, were the places I believed we needed to be,” explained Lou.  He began calling on churches in Milwaukee’s near north side and established relationships with four churches who agreed to install racks featuring Alzheimer’s education and support material for use by their parishioners.  The churches also set up presentation tables during worship and agreed to feature Alzheimer’s education during meal programs and men’s and women’s club meetings. “Our intent was to build awareness of the disease, connect people to resources, and break the stigma associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia,” said Lou.

Building on the success of his spring initiative, Lou continued that fall by selecting a half-dozen businesses located near churches in Milwaukee’s inner city.  His goal was to create awareness for the Alzheimer’s Association and the Walk to End Alzheimer’s by placing donation cans, yard signs and posters for the Walk inside those establishments.  “I also wanted to let those business owners know that if you have a customer that needs services, we can help,” said Lou.

One of the businesses that Lou cold-called was Hayat Pharmacy, an organization that he was not familiar with.  “I met with Hashim Zaibak, Hayat’s CEO and a registered pharmacist,” said Lou.  At the meeting Lou learned that Hayat had been in business for just a few years, and within that time had opened six pharmacies all located within low income neighborhoods around Milwaukee.  Lou said, “After our meeting Hashim was completely on board.  He realized that people coming in for Alzheimer’s medications were in need of the same care and support services that the Alzheimer’s Association had to offer.”

This initial interaction with Hayat Pharmacies, and the partnership that has been forged since, is in Lou’s words, “monumental”.  “This gave us an opportunity to partner with a dominant business in the community that touches so many community members.  They also do free prescription deliveries, which connected us to an audience where transportation is a difficult issue.”  Lou partnered with Alzheimer’s Association staff members, Gail Morgan and Tim Harrington, to establish the Alzheimer’s Association as the front door to reach people with important information about services available to Alzheimer’s family caregivers that can positively impact their lives and health. All Hayat Pharmacy customers picking up prescriptions receive a Prescription for Care card from their pharmacist outlining the specific education, care and support services, including a 24/7 Helpline, that are available free-of-charge through the Alzheimer’s Association.

“It’s been a very productive endeavor this far,” said Lou.  He credits Afriqah Imani, Hayat Pharmacy Outreach Coordinator, with doing a lot of the legwork on Hayat’s behalf, and also making inroads for the Alzheimer’s Association in key areas like senior centers.  There are additional components to the program, including a memory screening, that are still under development and will be rolled out in the future.  But for the moment, Lou Bruner, sadly, has had to take a step back from his role as grass roots community volunteer.  His wife, Debra, is now in the later stage of the disease process, leaving Lou with very little time or energy to continue his role.  “It takes time and manpower,” he said.  “And we have to stay at it.”  We will stay at it Lou…. and thank you for being our trail blazer!

Lou Bruner was the recipient of the Outstanding Caregiver Award at the Alzheimer's Association Wisconsin Network Conference in 2014 


 

Alzheimer's Association

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Formed in 1980, the Alzheimer's Association is the world's leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research.