AFA Stresses Need to Destroy Stigma and Recognize 'Misunderstood' Population
NEW YORK, Sept. 15, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Responding to controversial statements by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, Eric J. Hall, founding president and chief executive officer of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, today said that Robertson's comments highlight the very need for greater efforts to educate the public about the impact of Alzheimer's disease on individuals and their families, and to destroy the stigma and misperceptions that surround the brain disorder.
"There is no doubt that this heartbreaking disease robs people of their memories and other intellectual functions, but to liken Alzheimer's disease to, as Mr. Robertson said, 'a kind of death' fosters an insensitivity that feeds misperceptions about the disease," Hall said. "It fails to take into account that people with Alzheimer's disease, although impaired, deserve optimal care and dignity. Love and compassion are the greatest gifts for every human being until their very last breath."
Robertson, in response to a question from a caller on his "700 Club" show on the Christian Broadcasting Network, suggested that the caller's friend divorce his wife who has Alzheimer's disease and likened the brain disorder to a "walking death."
AFA's CEO said that the comments, while unfortunate, highlight the complex toll that Alzheimer's disease presents.
Hall noted that all types of decisions made by families affected by Alzheimer's disease are very personal—not "something that can be summed up with a blanket response. Every case of Alzheimer's disease is different. Every family dynamic is different. Every emotional and financial toll is different. That's my point. We're talking about people who are living with Alzheimer's disease."
According to Hall, during the progression of dementia, caregivers can still strive to tap into a person's essence—by engaging them in activities, when possible, or by simply holding their hand. Caregivers and professionals report that a glimmer of recognition can emerge even in the latest stages. Like a teen who entered AFA's college scholarship program wrote about her grandmother, "For the first time in months, she didn't just look at me, she saw me."
To get through this difficult disease, Hall said it is critical for family caregivers to "realize they are not alone. By seeking assistance and discussing challenges with family, friends, clergy and caregiver organizations, they can make this long journey easier for themselves and their loved ones."
He concluded: "We must speak for individuals with Alzheimer's disease who can no longer speak for themselves, and ensure that our nation pays attention to the need for programs and services for this misunderstood population."
The Alzheimer's Foundation of America, based in New York, is a national nonprofit organization that unites more than 1,600 member organizations nationwide with the goal of providing optimal care and services to individuals confronting dementia, and to their caregivers and families. Its services include counseling and referrals by licensed social workers via a toll-free hot line, e-mail, Skype and live chat; educational materials; a free quarterly magazine for caregivers; and professional training. For more information about AFA, call toll-free 866-AFA-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org.
SOURCE Alzheimer's Foundation of America