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Mount Airy resident retiring as executive director of Maryland chapter of National Alzheimer’s Association

Mount Airy resident Cass Naugle, who has been involved in Alzheimer’s disease advocacy for more than 40 years, is retiring after a long run as executive director of the Greater Maryland Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Under Naugle’s leadership, the association grew from a one-person agency to a chapter of the national organization with three locations in Maryland.


“I was the first staff person of this tiny organization that was completely run by volunteers back in 1986,” Naugle said in a Wednesday interview.

According to Naugle, what is today known as the Greater Maryland Chapter of the National Alzheimer’s Association, was actually just a group of community members volunteering more than four decades ago.

Mount Airy resident Cass Naugle, who served as executive director of the Greater Maryland Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association since 1986, is retiring from her position Aug. 31.

“We actually started in 1979 as just a group of local people and then in 1980 the national association was formed by several groups across the country and so then we became a part of the national association in 1986,” Naugle said.

The National Alzheimer’s Association was founded in 1980 by a group of caregivers and individuals across the country to provide support and advance research into the disease.

Today, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, which is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. In Maryland alone, there are more than 110,000 people living with the disease and 294,000 caregivers according to data released by the National Alzheimer’s Association.

The Greater Maryland Chapter wasn’t formed until 2002 when Naugle saw the merging of chapters in Western Maryland, Central Maryland, and the Eastern Shore to form what is the Greater Maryland chapter today, according to a news release.

Before becoming involved with the Alzheimer’s Association, Naugle’s interest in working with seniors began early in her life when she was working as a therapeutic recreation therapist in long-term care. She enjoyed getting to know people who had dementia and was curious about different ways she could communicate with them. Little was then known about the disease, including how to care for those who were living with it.

“I felt that at the time that people with dementia were rather overlooked. There was not a lot of information about it and there was not any specialized training or programs,” said Naugle. “I felt really strong about it. I was fascinated with how their brains worked and I always tried to bring out the best that I could in them.”

According to Naugle, federal funding for research toward Alzheimer’s was around $4 million in the 1980s, which translated to just $1 for every person living with the disease.

Today, there are a full range of medical services and resources as well as educational support services for every stage of the disease and advocates led by the National Alzheimer’s Association have contributed to increasing federal funding for research to $2.8 billion for the entire country, according to Naugle and the release.


Naugle said she is proud of all the work that has been done so far for those living with the disease and has been inspired by those who continue to care for their loved ones who are struggling.

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“Getting to know people who are challenged by this disease and developing the kinds of services that they need with a disease that currently has no cure, it’s really about providing support and providing education, and it makes all the difference for people to know that they’re not alone,” said Naugle.

One accomplishment Naugle said she’s particularly proud of is being able to provide resources and services to communities of color who are struggling with Alzheimer’s.

“We found that in the African American community, they are two-and-a-half times more likely to develop the disease than whites because of other health disparities,” she said. “We found that families were coming to us very late in the course of the disease usually in a crisis situation.”

With some committed volunteers, Naugle helped organize the African American Community Forum on Memory Loss, an annual event in Baltimore that brings about 400 participants each year in order to help get resources and support to the African American community.

Naugle said the chapter is looking into conducting outreach to the Latino community as well. David McShea, former director of the Maryland area office of the American Diabetes Association, will be taking Naugle’s position.


Although Naugle is retiring Monday, she said she will always stay involved in the fight against Alzheimer’s.

“I certainly will keep my relationships and stay involved with the cause,” said Naugle. “I’m passionate about research and want to keep up to date on that.”