Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and currently it affects more than 5 million adults in the United States alone. Researchers predict that the disease will affect some 13.8 million Americans by 2050. A progressive disease, Alzheimer’s worsens over time, resulting in severe memory loss, loss of thinking skills, and inability to do daily activities.
The causes of Alzheimer’s disease are not fully understood, but they’re thought to include a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.
Here are a few of the top charities tackling Alzheimer’s disease. These organizations fund research, raise awareness, educate, and provide comfort to those living with and caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease.
The Alzheimer’s Association mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s through research, care, and promoting brain health. Alzheimer’s Association services have reached millions of Americans since its founding in 1980 as a collaboration between support group representatives and the National Institute on Aging. Program costs account for approximately 79 percent of the association’s expenses, with another 15 percent going to fundraising.
The annual autumnal Walk to End Alzheimer’s, held in over 600 cities across the country, is the “world’s largest event” in supporting Alzheimer’s research and services. In 2015, walk participants raised more than $75 million. The Alzheimer’s Association additionally offers support through online resources, message boards, in-person support groups, and safety services like Safe Return.
Alzheimer’s Family Services Center
At the time of its founding in 1980, the Alzheimer’s Family Services Center (AFSC) was the first care program for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in Orange County, California. After providing 35 years of services, AFSC remains the only day care facility dedicated to Alzheimer’s and dementia care in Orange County. The center’s mission is to improve quality of life for those affected by Alzheimer’s through memory care services and resources for caregivers. Approximately 86 percent of all donations directly support their programs, such as Mind Booster services for individuals with late-stage Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
Founded by a consortium of organizations, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) now has more than 2,600 member organizations across the country. Its mission is to leverage this network to provide care and services to individuals facing Alzheimer’s as well as their caregivers and families.
At the core of AFA’s programming are social services. The AFA maintains a toll-free helpline staffed by licensed social workers, phone-based support groups for caregivers and family members, and monthly webinars like Care Connection. Last year, the AFA launched the National Memory Screening Program, which provides free memory screenings, resources, and educational materials. In 2015, 88 percent of expenses went to programming.
Cure Alzheimer’s Fund
Also known as the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Foundation, the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund was founded in 2004 by three families in an effort to accelerate research on curing Alzheimer’s. Since then, the fund has raised and contributed 100 percent of $45 million to research. It seems fitting then that Charity Navigator gave Cure Alzheimer’s Fund a perfect 100 rating in 2016. The fund had previously received five consecutive four-star ratings from the watchdog.
The research interests of the fund are rather transparent, and funded research projects are catalogued on the organization’s website.
Dementia Society of America
The Dementia Society of America (DSA) raises awareness of and provides education on many types of dementia and related diseases, including Alzheimer’s. This past spring, the DSA held the Step2Raise challenge, a 44-day “stepathon” to raise awareness of all types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. In 2015, steppers achieved a combined 44 million steps.
Additionally, the DSA uses donations to underwrite the Ginny Gives program, which provides grants to enhance the quality of life of those living with dementia and their caregivers by bringing music, dance, art, and other sensory events to care communities and homes. As the DSA is volunteer-run, the majority of donations go directly to programming.
Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation
For 21 years, the Fisher Center has worked to end Alzheimer’s disease by increasing understanding, improving care and quality of life for those living with it, and searching for a cure. Founded by philanthropists Zachary Fisher and David Rockefeller and led by Nobel Laureate neuroscientist Paul Greengard, the Fisher Center devotes more than 85 percent of donations to its programming, including funding research and maintaining a comprehensive online information program, accessible through its website and over the phone.
Current Fisher Center president, Kent Karosen, recently authored a children’s book, Why Can’t Grandma Remember My Name?, designed to help families talk about loved ones affected by Alzheimer’s.
Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation
Although a smaller organization than some, the resources provided by the Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation (LIAF) are mighty. Founded in 1988, LIAF’s mission is to improve the quality of life for those living with Alzheimer’s and other memory disorders, and their caregivers.
LIAF provides programming for people with all stages of Alzheimer’s, as well as physical therapy, caregiver support groups, and brain fitness workshops for those living in the Long Island, New York area. In 2015, about 82 percent of expenses went to programming. If you’re in the area, check out their events page. Recent fundraisers include Cocktails and Casino Night and an annual golf classic.