BOSTON (CBS) – Each month, WBZ Cares highlights a worthy non-profit organization and tells the story of what that organization does for the community.
This month, WBZ Cares profiles the Alzheimer’s Association Massachusetts and New Hampshire Chapter. It is one of over 70 Alzheimer’s Association chapters serving communities across the country providing care and support for all those affected by Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The organization is committed to accelerating the progress of new treatments, preventions and ultimately a cure.
Chicago Businessman Jerome H. Stone founded the Alzheimer’s Association back in 1980 when little was known about the disease and there was virtually no support or services provided to families. When Stone’s wife Evelyn had been diagnosed with the disease a decade prior, and he had nowhere to turn for help.
“We looked around the country and there were about a half dozen grass roots organizations who had sprung up for the same reason that people were trying to grapple with this disease that had a name but nobody was paying attention to it, ” said Jim Wesler, CEO of the Massachusetts/New Hampshire chapter. “And so he pulled all these groups together and formed the Alzheimer’s Association. Now we have 80 chapters, over 2,000 employees and are serving hundreds of thousands of Americans.”
Wesler, says the Association has three main goals.
“To raise public awareness and to start providing services and caregiving standards for families. Slowly the Alzheimer’s Association became involved in research. We have now emerged as the largest private nonprofit funder of research in the globe,” he said.
Wessler says they’ve got a number of services and programs they offer to families and caregivers including a 24-hour telephone helpline
“Call us any time of day and they’ll get a trained counselor on the phone,” Wessler said. “We have family counseling, we work with support groups, we have educational programs throughout New England, and we provide training for professional caregivers. People who work in nursing homes assisted living. ”
Recently, the Association developed a program designed specifically for patients with early onset Alzheimer’s.
Jim Wessler: “Called ALZ Meetups a series of social engagement activities with the arts, hiking on trails, meeting at coffee shops, just a way to help people re-engage in the community. And just because they have a disease, does not mean they have to disappear from normal life activities.”