POINT PLEASANT — Individuals and families affected by Alzheimer’s disease were recognized and remembered during a commemorative candle-lighting ceremony at the Riverfront Park pavilion.
On Nov. 5, upward of two dozen community members came together with leaders from Artis Senior Living of Brick, Senior Helpers of Ocean County, and Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
“It is such an honor to have this kind of a turnout,” Linda Panarella, certified dementia practitioner with Senior Helpers of Ocean County, said at the evening program.
“This is an important occasion as we raise awareness about Alzheimer’s and related dementias and about the caregivers who have such a huge role, whether they are professional caregivers or whether they are volunteer caregivers or family caregivers.”
November is National Alzheimer’s Month and National Family Caregivers Month. According to organizers there are currently 24 millions people over the age of 65 with Alzheimer’s disease worldwide; 5.8 million in the United States and 190,000 in New Jersey. Additionally, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the nation.
“Part of our role when we think about dementia is that we are always looking for a cure, that is really important, but the other part that we focus on is what we are going to do to support people while they are still on their journey and that is a really important thing,” Ms. Panarella said.
“When you are connected with dementia you understand that very often people are dismembered from the community, it just simply happens by nature of the disease. These people are uncomfortable, uncertain when they are living with the disease, people who approach you are uncomfortable and we’re trying to overcome all of that as we raise awareness tonight and I am so happy that we can be here together.”
The ceremony included a reading of the letter written by former president Ronald Reagan announcing his own diagnosis with Alzheimer’s, in which he hoped that by sharing, it “might promote greater awareness of this condition” and “encourage a clearer understanding of the individuals and families who are affected by it.”
Testimonials from caregivers and those living with Alzheimer’s were read to attendees and described how despite living with the disease or seeing their loved one struggling with it, they were staying positive, living in the day and remembering “how love is the only thing the disease can’t destroy. While it can destroy memories and bodily functions, the person is still in there.”
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