It’s so wonderful to see people out and about these days, and there seems to be so much to catch up on. For me, 2021 feels as though it’s flying by. Not only are we already nearly halfway through the year (yikes), but in our household, we have a kindergarten graduate (double yikes)! Nothing shows you how fast time passes like children. Well, before I blink and we officially start first grade, I wanted to pause and make time to share the latest news about an exciting initiative that I’ve been fortunate to be a part of.
If you hadn’t heard, I was appointed last year to the Governor’s Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias. This task force is long overdue. I’m embarrassed to say that when it was created, Ohio was the only state left to address this issue and plan accordingly for our senior community.
You may wonder why I wanted to serve on such a task force. Well, the decision was easy. Professionally, I’ve seen the worst in those who prey upon seniors battling Alzheimer’s or related dementias. Personally, my family has a connection to Alzheimer’s that dates back to my elementary school years. It was then that my maternal grandfather was diagnosed.
I remember Grandpa as a silly, goofy, and affectionate man who loved me immensely. I also remember life getting more and more difficult as his disease progressed. One time, Grandpa took off in his truck. In his mind, he was just going for a Sunday drive. To our family, however – panic! Grandpa was lost, and a search took place that ended up on the evening news. Luckily, he was found safe. Ultimately, my grandfather lived in a nursing home when my grandmother could no longer care for him. Looking back, I remember the emotional struggle for my family, and the added strain of limited services in a small town.
Fast forward to a few years ago. … Our family learned that my mom had early-stage Alzheimer’s. Almost 30 years later, and I found the same struggles, the same questions. What care options are available? Can Dad care for Mom full time? Should he? How will we handle safety and maintain Mom’s dignity as her disease progresses? How will we … how can we face this again? And finally, what can I do as a daughter? How can I assist others in my community?
So, you see, there really was no question when I thought about applying to serve on the Governor’s Task Force. For every family navigating these waters, for every person victimized because they suffer from Alzheimer’s or related dementias, I say yes. As difficult as these diseases can be, I am optimistic about Ohio’s renewed devotion and attention to them, and I am humbled to serve alongside experts in this field.
COVID did delay us a bit, but so far in 2021 we’ve met monthly online, and have a lot to share. You can read meeting minutes and view public meetings by going to the Ohio Department of Aging’s website and clicking on “About us,” then “Who We Are,” and finally “Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Task Force.”
I’ve been assigned to the Experience Committee, and I am spearheading the effort to collect information from those affected. If you happen to see a survey link to share your thoughts, please submit, if you can.
As dark as these diseases can be, and as helpless as they can make us feel, it’s important to remember there a lot of people who care. I am excited to contribute to this task force. Our report is due this fall, so keep an eye out for findings. If you need help navigating a recent diagnosis, or are a caregiver looking for support, SourcePoint is an excellent resource. Another resource is the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org) or the National Institute on Aging (www.nia.nih.gov).
As I list these resources, it is my hope that those who need them will not hesitate to reach out. For many, it can be hard to ask for help, but the truth is, we are all better with a strong support system and there is no shame in seeking guidance. More than that, I believe it is the responsibility of each of us to help when we can. To that point, June is National Elder Abuse Awareness Month, an entire month specifically set aside to shine the light senior safety.
Also highlighted this month is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15. That’s right, world. This designation best exemplifies that it’s up to all of us to stay informed and give voice to those who may need our help.
If you suspect the abuse or neglect of a senior in Delaware County, you can call Job and Family – Adult Protective Services at (740) 833-340. Calls may be made anonymously, and services are available to those at risk of harm, those unable to protect themselves, and those who have no one else to protect them.
Melissa A. Schiffel is Delaware County prosecutor.