Highlighting the potentially crushing impact on young children and teens when a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America will feature a heartwarming educational discussion and a family profile on this important topic as part of its first-ever Alzheimer’s disease telethon on December 4.
Al Roker of the “Today” show, serving as host of the telethon, will lead a discussion that will help parents and children learn how to speak to loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease. Separately, a family profile notes the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on teens, and viewers will be directed to help that is available specifically for this generation.
Both segments mirror the overall theme of AFA’s “Together for Care” telethon: to heighten the nation’s understanding and awareness of the disease, and the support services and other resources available nationwide. Donations will fund the critical needs of the growing number of people with the brain disorder, especially as the first wave of baby boomers turn 65 next year.
The telethon will air in 16 major markets on NBC and be telecast online on AFA’s Web site for national viewing. To appeal to viewers of all ages, the show features educational pieces, musical performances and celebrity appearances.
The segment that focuses on talking to children takes place between Roker and Elmo, Sesame Street’s much-loved furry red monster. The two use the ABC’s to provide a valuable lesson in communication. For example, Elmo, expressing his signature giggle and positive outlook, learns that “C” stands for “care,” and that speaking in a calm and friendly tone lets loved ones know you care about them. The skit also assures youngsters that their grandparents, parents or other relatives still love them even if they now act differently.
The telethon will also provide powerful insight into the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on teens, who often unexpectedly become caregivers when a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease. An estimated 1.4 million children ages 8 to 18 nationwide are caregivers, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common condition affecting their relatives.
One segment will profile a family coping with a rare form of the disease, known as young onset, which affects about half a million Americans. Specifically, it will turn the lens on a college student and her 14-year-old brother whose world was turned upside down when their dad was diagnosed at age 46.
To drive home the message that teens should lean on experts and other teens for support, Scott Adsit, Grizz Chapman and Katrina Bowden of the NBC sitcom “30 Rock” will inform viewers about AFA’s unique teens division. The division, called AFA Teens, provides education, offers an online forum to express emotions and ask questions, and suggests opportunities for community involvement.
“The reach of Alzheimer’s disease goes beyond the individual to the whole family, and the emotional toll on kids can be cruelest of all,” said Eric J. Hall, AFA’s president and CEO. “We want youngsters to know that there still are ways to connect, to express love and to make a difference in the lives of their parents, grandparents or other loved ones.”
Hall is encouraging families to watch the telethon together, discuss the disease in an age-appropriate manner, and reach out for assistance; AFA’s licensed social workers are available at 866-232-8484. AFA’s Web site, www.alzfdn.org, includes tips about talking to children, and its AFA Teens’ Web site, www.afateens.org, encourages bulletin board postings and creative contributions.
For more details about the telethon, including air times, visit www.alzfdn.org or call 866-232-8484. Eisai Inc., a human health care company, is the telethon’s platinum sponsor. The show is being produced by Al Roker Entertainment.
With an estimated 5.1 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the telethon comes as the nation braces for an escalating incidence of the brain disorder. Advanced age is the greatest known risk factor. The disease results in loss of memory and other intellectual function, and is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is a national nonprofit organization headquartered in New York whose mission is to provide optimal care and services to individuals with dementia, and their families. It unites more than 1,400 member organizations that provide hands-on programs to meet the educational, emotional and practical needs of families in their local communities. AFA’s services include a toll-free hot line, counseling, educational materials, a free caregiver magazine, and professional training. For information, call 866-AFA-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org.
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