LIVING WITH ALZHEIMER’S: Association members visit statehouse to advocate for cause
COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — More than 6 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s, including around 95 thousand South Carolinians according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Wednesday on National State House Advocacy Day, association members spoke with lawmakers about how they can help the cause.
“A lot of people don’t like to talk about a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or another dementia or think that it’s a normal part of aging. It’s not and it’s nothing to be embarrassed of,” said Beth Sulkowski, Alzheimer’s Association vice president of communication.
The disease doesn’t only impact the elderly.
“I used to work. I used to drive. I used to cook. I could cook in my own home by myself,” said Missy Callahan, Midlands women who lives with Alzheimer’s.
Missy Callahan was 45 years old when she received her diagnosis three years ago this month.
“My life has changed completely. I was very independent,” Callahan said. “I did anything and everything I wanted to do. I could travel with my job. I could drive anywhere I wanted to but now I’m completely dependent on my caregivers.”
She was at the statehouse to speak in support of her caregiver. The Alzheimer’s Association asked lawmakers to continue to support the Alzheimer’s Caregiver Respite program, which allows caregivers to access short-term assistance for their own well-being.
“Can you imagine if you had to take care of somebody and really could never get away if you lost that opportunity to get that funding,” said Betsy Brown, Alzheimer’s caregiver.
Betsy Brown has felt the impact of the disease in her own family. Her father has been living with Alzheimer’s for the past nine years.
“At first it’s the typical repeating of things, but as the disease progresses, they really become an adult toddler,” Brown said.
She knows first-hand the toll that the stress and challenges that caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can take on a person.
It never gets better. It never gets easier,” Brown said. “You come to accept it. You realize you have to be the voice for those with Alzheimer’s. That’s why so many are here today.”
“We’re not invalids. We still can live and enjoy life, but we depend on people to prop us up when we fall down,” Callahan said.
The association reports that 1 in 3 dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
To find out more about what you can do or to access support… see the association’s website here.