Alzheimer's Association to hold first community forum at Carroll Hospital

After Julie Peatt Cassaday’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, she had a lot of emotions.

“When dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s eight, 10 years ago, I made that decision, as so many caregivers do: I can be angry, or I can get involved,” she said.


She started participating in The Walk to End Alzheimer’s, a fundraising event of the Alzheimer’s Association, and began volunteering for the nonprofit’s advocacy work.

“Recently, I picked up advocating on the state level,” Peatt Cassaday said. “They just created a new volunteer position called a State Champion, so I am a state champion now for Del. Susan Krebs.”


And she is trying to bring more of the resources of the Alzheimer’s Association to bear in Carroll County, beginning with the organization’s first community forum, to be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in Carroll Hospital’s Shauck Auditorium.

It’s a free event, but registration — by calling 800-272-3900 or visiting bit.ly/ccforum2019 online — is encouraged.

“I really want people to register,” Peatt Cassaday said, adding that light refreshments would be served. “I think we have an opportunity to fit 150 people.”

The event will feature a video presentation, a 30-minute workshop on understanding Alzheimer’s and dementia, and a facilitated dialogue between attendees and presenters designed to not only help people understand what the Alzheimer’s Association can make available to them, but to help people like Peatt Cassaday better understand the needs of people in Carroll.

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“I am really hoping to pull people from various categories,” she said. “Anybody with a concern about a loved one, someone who has already been diagnosed, business leaders, educators and of course the senior care community.”

This is part of a larger community outreach strategy on the part of the Alzheimer’s Association, according to Ilene Rosenthal, association program director.

“We have in Maryland about 110,000 people that are living with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia,” Rosenthal said. “When we look at who we’re serving, we feel that we are just barely scratching the surface, we know there are people out there that need help and are not getting it.”

The association has held community forums on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, according to Rosenthal, but this will be the first forum held in Carroll.

“It’s very troubling to us when there are peopleout there that don’t know we exist,” she said. “Carroll County is one of those counties where we know there are needs and we feel we can do better and should do better.”

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“The Alzheimer’s Association, their services are free and they have a 24/7 hotline,” Peatt Cassaday added. “I gotta say, if I had known when dad was first diagnosed that they existed, I would have connected with them immediately. I found out about them after the fact.”

The Alzheimer’s Association hotline is 1-800-272-3900.

And while the association will not be opening a permanent office in Carroll County any time soon, Peatt Cassaday said there will soon be a trained volunteer available on certain days in the county’s senior and community centers to provide help with navigating resources and finding support groups.


“We have identified a volunteer who is willing to do it, but we need to get them trained,” she said. “In maybe the May to June time frame we will have that program in place.”

And lastly, Peatt Cassaday said, she hopes that anyone else interested in becoming involved in Alzheimer’s advocacy work will take the community forum as an opportunity to learn more and starting doing it.

“We want people to understand that there is a place for them. If they are interested, if they feel like I felt, frustrated and angry. If they want an outlet, if they want to be productive in the cause, there are so many roles they can play,” she said. “We are always open to bringing more people into the fold.”

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