For about 10 years, LaWanda Crews and her family have used the services of the Alzheimer’s Alliance of Smith County.
It started when her father-in-law was diagnosed with the disease and continues today as her mother-in-law deals with Lewy Body Dementia, a disease in which symptoms can closely resemble Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
“It’s just so comforting to have them, to know there are resources available that you don’t realize are there, to know they are experts in caregiving,” said Ms. Crews, 54, of Lindale, an account executive with Encompass Home Health.
She and her family, which includes husband, Greg, have appreciated the caregiver support the nonprofit provides through education, advice and respite care.
“It is such a valuable resource for the people in our area,” Ms. Crews said.
The Alzheimer’s Alliance is among 10 agencies that will benefit from this year’s Shine Your Light Community Campaign, a fundraising effort that’s raised more than $1.3 million for 20 local nonprofits since its 2008 inception.
The alliance’s services include arranging for in-home care and social programs for those with Alzheimer’s so caregivers can take breaks; counseling families; developing plans of care; and educating the public about dementia.
Alzheimer’s is a slow, progressive and degenerative neuropsychological disease that causes brain cells to die. Those who have it, gradually lose their memory, social skills and mental functions. There is no cure.
The alliance estimates more than 3,500 people in Smith County live with dementia, and, based on a large senior population in the county, that number will increase by about 40 percent in the next 10 years.
The disease is the sixth leading cause of death and the most expensive disease in America, according to the alliance. In 2015, more than $225 billion was spent on caring for people with Alzheimer’s.
Founded in 1982, the independent alliance helps those impacted by dementia and promotes a “brain healthy” lifestyle.
Its variety of services help to meet the many needs of caregivers and their loved ones who have Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.
In conjunction with the Smith County Sheriff’s Office and the Tyler Police Department, the alliance takes part in Project Lifesaver. Participants in the program wear a bracelet that emits a radio signal. This allows officials to locate them should they wander away.
Its weekly Wonderful Wednesdays Day Club provides stimulation for those in the early- or mid-stages of dementia. Participants do crafts, listen to musical performances and take part in games, discussions and mild exercise.
The alliance offers free and confidential memory screenings with The University of Texas at Tyler Memory Assessment Research Center and Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s National Memory Screening Day initiative.
The programs are made possible in part because of private donors.
Executive Director Stephanie Taylor said donations are vital to the alliance.
“We rely upon contributions and donations from families, friends, local businesses, foundations, etc., so that we can serve Smith County residents dealing with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias,” she said.
Mrs. Taylor said donations “stay in our community and provide direct services to people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and their families.”
Luanne Harms, the alliance’s client services director, said families are not alone in facing the disease.
“While there can be challenges, there is also a lot of hope,” she said. “People are becoming more educated, and we live in a generous community that supports the safety and well-being of those who have been diagnosed. The most important thing is to be proactive so you can find support and avoid a potential crisis.”
SHINE YOUR LIGHT
DONATIONS SO FAR
$68,000 in matching funds
$18,866 in community donations
$2,535 in community donations on Thursday
$86,866 in total donations
2016 MATCHING DONORS
• The Clements Family Foundation
• Tyler Morning Telegraph
• Herb and Melvina Buie
• R.W. Fair Foundation
• Barbara and Billy Bass
• Your Philanthropy
• Anonymous donor
• Southside Bank
• Niblack Charitable Fund
Read profile stories about this year’s Shine Your Light recipients in the Tyler Morning Telegraph through Dec. 24.
Thursday, Dec. 15: People Attempting To Help (PATH)
Friday, Dec. 16: Meals on Wheels Ministry
Saturday, Dec. 17: Samaritan Counseling Center of Tyler
Sunday, Dec. 18: The Mentoring Alliance’s Boys & Girls Clubs of East Texas
Monday, Dec. 19: Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
Tuesday, Dec. 20: East Texas Food Bank
Wednesday, Dec. 21: The Salvation Army
Thursday, Dec. 22: Bethesda Health Clinic
Friday, Dec. 23: Alzheimer’s Alliance of Smith County
Saturday, Dec. 24: Children’s Advocacy Center of Smith County