FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | November 9, 2009
Individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease to be Remembered During Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s National Commemorative Candle Lighting
NEW YORK, NY—For Frank Hester of Manteo, NC, what a difference a year makes. Last November, his mother, Naomi, belted out “Amazing Grace” at a candle lighting ceremony that paid tribute to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease—she, among them. Although she needed some prompting from her husband and community members, Hester sang with the same beautiful voice and enjoyment as she had done her whole life.
“She had a way to connect with people,” said her son.
This year, when GEM Adult Day Services of Kill Devil Hills, NC, again holds a similar candle lighting on November 15, Hester’s voice will not be heard and her son will light a flame in her memory. After a ten-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease, the 70-year-old North Carolina resident passed away last April. She had played the piano until about nine months before her death and hummed herself to sleep every night until nearly the end.
As the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease continues to climb, other communities across the country will also light “candles of care” to remember those who have passed from the brain disorder and others living with it as part of a National Commemorative Candle Lighting sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA).
About 200 organizations will hold inspirational ceremonies either on November 15 or another day during National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, observed during November. It is the seventh year that AFA is sponsoring the annual event.
Alzheimer’s disease, which results in loss of memory and other intellectual functions, currently affects an estimated 2.4 million to 4.5 million Americans. It is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States.
“It is inspirational in the face of such a heartbreaking disease to pull together entire communities,” said Eric J. Hall, AFA’s president and CEO. “Knowing that there’s a kindred spirit is very therapeutic for families who have been touched by the disease. For others, it raises awareness in a powerful yet non-threatening way so they might be more inclined to reach out for help now or in the future.”
Hester will be attending the local ceremony with his wife and 16-year-old daughter.
“It will be a bit more reflective because my mother’s not here, and in other ways she is because of the legacy she left behind,” said Hester, who had relocated from Maryland four years ago to help out.
Across the country, ceremonies will feature a candle lighting and reading of names in memory and recognition. Some groups are adding their own touches, such as poetry readings and choirs, and some houses of worship are incorporating ceremonies into their regular weekend prayer services.
For the Mid Island Y JCC in Plainview, NY, its participation in the National Commemorative Candle Lighting is an outgrowth of its year-old Shabbat Respite Program, which offers activities for individuals with dementia twice a week and a monthly support group for caregivers. The afternoon ceremony will include a prayer reading by a caregiver who lost her husband to Alzheimer’s disease, and the distribution of educational materials.
“Caregivers keep it all locked up inside, and I don’t think the community realizes how many people are affected in our own neighborhood. We’re hoping to spread the word a little bit,” said Doreen McIlwain, program coordinator for Shabbat Respite.
In Texas, Constant Care Management will be hosting ceremonies at all seven of its Autumn Leaves assisted living residences in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Invites have gone out to families of current and past residents and to the community.
“Unfortunately, with this progressive disease, you lose the individual before they actually pass away so the candle lighting ceremony helps us to remember that these are individuals we love…they’re always in our hearts,” said Desiree Whitten, the company’s vice president of marketing.
To locate a candle lighting ceremony, visit www.candlelighting.org or call 866-AFA-8484.
Also as part of its awareness-raising efforts during National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, AFA will hold its annual National Memory Screening Day on November 17. More than 2,000 sites from coast to coast will provide free, confidential memory screenings and education about memory problems and successful aging.
AFA, based in New York, is a nonprofit organization that unites more than 1,200 member organizations nationwide with the goal of providing optimal care and services to individuals confronting dementia, and to their caregivers and families. Its services include a toll-free hot line, educational materials, a free quarterly magazine for caregivers and professional training. For more information about AFA and its November events, call toll-free 866-AFA-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org.
Contact: Carol Steinberg