My Dad, Wince V. King, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in 2004 when he was 84 years old. This was four years after the death of his wife and my mother. They had been happily married for 58 years. Dad had been an athlete in high school and college; served in the army; a career fireman and Skycap with American Airlines; loved to exercise and attend church. He was a picture of a health. Since he was a very independ ent man who wanted to remain in his home, my brother and I sought out to hire “caregivers with a calling,” who would assist us in providing a stimulating environment in his home consisting of: continuing his exercise regime, daily outings, preparing healthy meals, a sense of humor, conversing to and with him, encouraging independence, and treating him with dignity and respect as he navigated this unrelenting disease. My brother and I did accomplish our mission to keep our dad in his home until the end. He transitioned on 7-18-13— two months after his 94th birthday—after he got up that morning- was washed up and dressed- and took his last nap.
Alzheimer’s is projected to reach epidemic proportions in the near future. AD is an equal opportunity oppressor; however studies suggest that African Americans and Latinos are at higher risk than Caucasians. The reasons for this disparity aren’t clear. But it has been determined that many of the risk factors for Alzheimer’s are diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, which are more common in the African American and Latino communities. My advocacy efforts on many of the compelling issues impacting AD patients and their families are expressed in my book, Stolen. It chronicles a sister’s and brother’s task to keep our father in his home, while tackling this challenging, devastating brain disease.
In 2012, the Obama Administration released the National Alzheimer’s Plan, which budgeted $80 million for research and $20 million for caregiver support and education. This is a start, but it is not enough. Currently, there is no prevention, cure or treatment for this disease. This is personal to me: AD is a threat to my personal sense of well-being, now and in the future. I am an advocate for increased funding for research and for increased efforts to recruit and educate African Americans about the necessity of our involvement in research studies and clinical trial; and for increased Alzheimer’s disease care programs and government support in the form of services and financial assistance. In addition, I am passionate in advocating for Alzheimer’s-specific or specialized training programs for primary caregiver and in-home-caregivers. Without it, AD patients will be placed in convalescent homes prematurely; elder abuse allegations will increase; and retirements, inheritances, and healthcare programs will be decimated. My mission is to increase awareness, not to alarm you.
Lora King is a Los Angeles-based social worker, consultant and author of the book, Stolen. To learn more about her book, please visit www.stolenbyldking.com