It is impossible to address a problem if you don’t know you have one.
When it comes to changes in memory and thinking, particularly those that impact a person’s ability to complete the tasks of daily life, such changes are sometimes thought to be a normal part of getting older. While it is true that slight changes in memory and recall may occur as we age, changes that are disruptive to the way we customarily function should be investigated by a physician. Normal age-related changes in cognitive function are very different from something like a form of dementia that will become progressively worse over time.
Dementia is a brain disorder commonly characterized by a cluster of symptoms like significant forgetfulness, confusion with time and/or place, changes in behavior, and more. While there are many different causes of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common, and the impact of such a diagnosis is far-reaching.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are currently more than six million Americans living with Alzheimer’s and an additional 11 million family members and friends who provide them with unpaid care. Unfortunately, many of those who are at greatest risk of developing this illness—those age 65 and older—are often unaware of the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s as well as the supportive resources available should they or someone they love ever be diagnosed and need to access them.
This lack of awareness is the impetus behind the upcoming Memory Sabbath/Memory Sunday event that will be held on June 11–12 in African American churches across greater Seattle. People of African descent are two times more likely than older White Americans to develop Alzheimer’s disease and are less likely to know the warning signs of this illness and the steps they should take if they are concerned about their cognitive health.
Recognizing the significant role that faith plays in the daily lives of many Black/African Americans, Aging and Disability Services (ADS) is working to connect with the faith community in recognition of Memory Sabbath/Memory Sunday. For several years now, ADS and planning partners like the Alzheimer’s Association, Washington State Chapter; the Center for Multicultural Health; First AME Church Health Ministry; and the Washington State Department of Health have recognized June as Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Awareness month by organizing this annual event. This year, once again, churches are being asked to increase awareness of Alzheimer’s within their congregations and support all who are living with this illness, as well as those who tirelessly care for them.
Changes in memory or thinking should not automatically be a cause for alarm, but they should be investigated. Recognizing the signs or symptoms that warrant the attention of a medical professional is the first step.
If you would like to learn more about this event or how your faith community can receive a Memory Sabbath/Sunday Toolkit to prepare for the event, contact ADS planner Karen Winston at 206-684-0706 or Karen.Winston@seattle.gov.
If you have general questions about Alzheimer’s or need support, please contact the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900 or visit alz.org.
Contributor Beverly Kimmons manages Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Community Engagement for the Alzheimer’s Association, Washington State Chapter.