With 5.2 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, a degenerative, debilitating brain disorder, the A-word — Alzheimer’s — needs to move to the forefront of the hearts and minds of our population.

However, when Americans fear developing Alzheimer’s disease more than any other major life-threatening disease, including cancer, stroke, heart disease and diabetes (Marist Institute/MetLife, 2012), there is an eminent need for society to change the stigma and fear of Alzheimer’s, perhaps adapting a wider vocabulary of less-fearful A-words — namely awareness, advocacy and action.

With over 20,000 Alzheimer’s-affected individuals in our greater Baton Rouge area alone, Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area continually strives to bring awareness through its mission of teaching, caring and connecting.

The organization’s largest awareness event, the Walk/Run to Remember, recently celebrated its 20th year in which 121 teams, over 200 volunteers, 77 sponsors and exhibitors, and about 3,000 walkers participated to bring more consciousness of Alzheimer’s disease to the community.

The organization strongly advocates for those affected by this devastating disease by offering help-line support, 14 monthly support groups, conferences, financial literacy sessions, Lunch-N-Learns, and training and informational programs.

Alzheimer’s Services partners with community and cultural organizations to offer caregivers a wide variety of resources, including social events, arts and music programs, and a Recollection Collection activity kit for home and long-term care settings.

Additionally, Charlie’s Place Activity and Respite Center, as well as respite reimbursement services, are available.

The time to take action is now. Individuals first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease can be proactive in their care, taking steps to obtain resources they need and to ensure that others honor their wishes. Caregivers can ask and accept assistance early on and be willing to educate themselves on the disease process. Physicians, health care providers, faith-based institution leaders, and local and state government officials can all take action by helping and accepting those affected by the disease, directing them to needed resources and, foremost, being voices for quality care.

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area is hosting a variety of events that bring awareness, promote advocacy and motivate action. No longer can Alzheimer’s be the silent or stigmatized A-word. Alzheimer’s is among us, like AIDS, cancer, heart disease or diabetes. But, unlike those particular illnesses, Alzheimer’s tends to be the elephant in the room no one wants to name.

Let’s start talking about it. Let’s remove the fear of the A-word and say the name — Alzheimer’s — as well as accompany it with other A-words: awareness, advocacy and action.

Dana D. Territo

director of services

Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area

Baton Rouge