The letter Ronald Reagan wrote changed the way Americans viewed Alzheimers, dramatically increasing the public's awareness of the disease and providing a boost to those fighting against it. Now, one local agency on the forefront of the fight.
In that letter Reagan wrote: "In opening our hearts we hope this might promote greater awareness of this condition." Today, evidence of his brave announcement 10 years ago is seen at Lubbock's Mildred and Shirley L. Garrison Center.
"One of the goals of the Garrison Center is simply to be a place to continue living," says Kena Dubberly, Administrator with the Garrison Center. That's the challenge Dubberly and her staff are facing. She says without a cure for the disease, it will continue to plague more and more of the elderly. By the year 2025, the number of Alzheimer's patients in Texas will increase 74%.
"The fastest growing segment of our population is age 85 and older so we can expect an increase from about 4 to 5 million people diagnosed with this illness now to almost 14 million by the middle of this century," says Dubberly.
The facility houses 120 elderly patients from around the world. Here their staff is specifically trained to deal with patients in different stages of the disease. "Someone in the earlier stages of the Alzheimer's process will not have the same psychosocial or cognitive care needs as someone who is later in the stages of this illness," says Dubberly.
As we will remember our former president as a wonderful leader and role model, he had one of the first hands in raising awareness about a disease more and more Americans will face.
"Dementia is a horrible disease but can we make that person's life meaningful can we make that person's life as full as it can be as satisfying to that person as it can be, I think that's the goal," says Laura Baker, M.D. of Family Medicine.
There are several support groups here in Lubbock for the friends and family members of Alzheimer's patients.
Alzheimers's Caregivers Support Group meets at 7p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at Groves Library, 5520 19th Street, Lubbock, TX (806) 792-9631
Alzheimer's Support Group meets at 10am on the second Friday of each month at Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 7702 Indiana, Lubbock. (806) 792-3553
Early Stage Alzheimer's Disease Support Group meets at 1:30pm on the third Wednesday of each month at Lakeridge United Methodist Church, 4701 82nd street, Call Barbara at (806) 794-3201 for more information.
Lakeridge Caregiver Support Group meets at 7pm on the first Wednesday of each month at Lakeridge United Methodist Church, 4701 82nd. For more information call (806) 792-1647.