November 5, 2013
Thirty years ago, in 1983, then-President Ronald Reagan launched a national campaign that resulted in declaring November as National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month.
In November 1994, five years after leaving office, Reagan handwrote a touching farewell letter to his "fellow Americans" publicly announcing his own diagnosis with Alzheimer's. "In opening our hearts," he wrote, "we hope this might promote greater awareness of this condition. Perhaps it will encourage a clearer understanding of the individuals and families affected by it… Unfortunately, as Alzheimer's progresses the family often bears a heavy burden."
President Bill Clinton helped broaden awareness in 1997 when he designated the week of Thanksgiving as a time to honor caregivers. Since then, November has become National Family Caregivers Month.
The non-profit National Alliance for Caregiving estimates that 21% of the adult population — or 44.4 million Americans — are providing unpaid care to an adult age 18 or older. These caregivers represent an estimated 22.9 million households or 21% of all U.S. households.
From our nation's first families to our own families, our patients, residents and those who love them, Alzheimer's is a difficult and often long journey. And that's why the work we do at Masonicare is so important. In addition to helping those with Alzheimer's and other health issues, the Masonicare experience extends to caregivers and families as well.
Whether a caregiver calls our HelpLine or consults with our Pathways Assessment program, meets with our primary care or behavioral health staff, lives in one of our retirement communities, accesses our on-site healthcare, or home health and hospice services, or benefits from The Masonic Charity Foundation, we have the opportunity to offer our support, resources and compassion.
While we continue to hope and pray that a cure for Alzheimer's is found soon, I wish to take this time to also honor caregivers, and thank our Masonicare staff for all you do to help these extraordinary people along their difficult path.