September is World Alzheimer’s Month, a time to increase awareness and understanding of this debilitating disease.
Most individuals living with Alzheimer’s are over the age of 65, and senior living communities can serve as strong voices to advocate for people with the disease, along with their loved ones and caregivers.
How can your community get involved in Alzheimer’s advocacy in a way that makes best use of staff members’ expertise?
Form a Task Force
Consider creating a task force within your community to craft an overall strategy for increasing awareness about Alzheimer’s. Choose staff members who specialize in areas related to the disease, including gerontology and cognitive health. Include members of your resident services and activities teams, along with some representatives of your resident population.
Write Articles and Blog Posts
If you already have a website and social media presence, you have a platform for disseminating useful information about Alzheimer’s. Have your task force brainstorm a list of topics to appeal to older adults, their family members and professionals who work with individuals with dementia and other forms of Alzheimer’s.
Create a schedule for generating articles, and assign writing and editing duties to staff members, residents and members of the greater community to include a range of voices and perspectives.
Create an Online Resource Center
The articles you generate can be included in a larger online resource center. By establishing a permanent, searchable repository of information about Alzheimer’s, you serve your resident population along with interested people in other locations.
Along with your own articles, you can include information from regional and national groups, such as the Alzheimer’s Association. Consider including contact information for resources and groups in your area, along with general information about diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s.
In addition, consider providing information about ongoing studies and opportunities for individuals to participate in research. For instance, the Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry sends out notices about current prevention trials seeking participants. Research Match allows individuals to sign up to participate in a wide variety of studies related to healthy aging.
Participate in Social Media Campaigns
A number of organizations providing support for individuals with Alzheimer’s and their families use social media hashtags to spread awareness. If you’ve established your social media presence, consider creating posts to include hashtags currently in use by regional and national organizations. For example, #WAM2017 and #WorldAlzMonth are in use on social media for World Alzheimer’s Month.
Hold a Workshop or Seminar
If you have team members within your community with expertise in memory care, you can plan an event to showcase that knowledge. Consider scheduling a panel discussion, seminar, workshop or lecture discussing issues relating to the disease. Topics can include the latest research, information for caregivers, diagnosis and treatment, and living joyfully with Alzheimer’s.
Encourage Sharing Stories
Most people relate to personal stories that describe the challenges and victories others face when confronting a disease like Alzheimer’s. Individuals touched by Alzheimer’s also may find comfort in sharing their experiences and feelings. In social media postings, on your website and in face-to-face discussions, encourage free-flowing expression among participants.
Your community’s expertise with Alzheimer’s disease may be put to even better use if you partner with other organizations in your community. Consider working with local universities, hospitals, doctors, advocacy groups and others to amplify your message of education, awareness and compassion.
Reach Out to Your Team
Members of your staff may have personal experience with Alzheimer’s, whether they’re currently helping care for a loved one or they’ve lost a family member to the disease.
Consider providing resources to assist your employees who are touched by the disease. Flexible schedules and counseling are among the benefits you can provide to help ease the burden. By joining the Alzheimer’s Workplace Alliance, your community demonstrates a strong commitment to providing support for employees who must balance caregiving with work responsibilities.
Sponsor a Fundraising Initiative
Work with your task force to identify opportunities for fundraisers to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association and other support and education groups. Potential fundraisers include movie nights, social events and participation in walks and other national events. If you plan a fundraiser, be sure to publicize it well in advance to local media and on social media and your website.
How Can Your Community Make a Difference?
World Alzheimer’s Month began in 2012 as a way to raise awareness and fight the stigma facing individuals with dementia. The influence of the observance is growing around the world, but obstacles remain. By using your community’s expertise and platform as a provider of senior living services to promote education and understanding, you become part of the solution.