Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Alzheimer's Association Helps Families Desperate for Advice

DEAR ABBY: I can't thank you enough for recommending the Alzheimer's Association in your column.

My "Aunt Sadie" was ill and bedridden for several years before she passed away. It was only after her death that our family realized that her husband, "Uncle Harry," was showing symptoms of dementia. The responsibility for his care fell on us, and we didn't know what to do.

I remembered that you said people who need help for someone with Alzheimer's disease or dementia should call the Alzheimer's Association. The executive director of our local chapter was very kind and helpful. He helped us find a place to get my uncle evaluated; it turned out it WAS Alzheimer's disease.

The caseworker who came to assist our family was incredibly sympathetic and supportive. She answered every question and was a consummate professional who really made us feel she cared. She helped us find the right place for Uncle Harry to stay, since he sometimes became very aggressive, and we could no longer care for him ourselves. It was a painful decision, but it was the right thing to do -- for all of us. Uncle Harry passed away a short time later, which was a blessing.

Our experience with the Alzheimer's Association remains a positive memory. Their telephone helpline and support group provided reassurance and helpful information. They helped us sift through the health-care maze to get the services we needed for my uncle, and more than lived up to their slogan, "Someone to Stand by You." -- LAURIE IN LOS ANGELES

DEAR LAURIE: I'm pleased, but not surprised, that your experience with the Alzheimer's Association was so positive. I can't think of a better organization to provide assistance to families who are faced with this emotionally devastating problem.

Alzheimer's disease now affects more than 4 million people in this country, a number that is projected to double by the time the baby boomer generation reaches age 65. It touches nearly every family and affects all of society.

The national Memory Walk sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association will take place Oct. 4 and 5 in more than 200 communities across the United States. It raises money specifically targeted for programs and services to help people with the disease and their families.

Call your local Alzheimer's Association chapter, or 1-800-272-3900 (toll-free), or visit the association's Web site at http.//www.alz.org for more information.