Oklahoma Masons have raised $500,000 to help rural residents deal with the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. The money will help establish satellite offices of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association in Lawton, Enid and McAlester.
“As families shoulder the tremendous emotional, physical and financial toll of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s day after day, year after year, they are anxiously awaiting for services to be offered as close to them as possible,” said Mark Fried, the state Alzheimer’s Association president.
“This, too, has been the Alzheimer’s Association’s dream, to be able to cover the entire state with services.”
Ron Chambers, a Masonic official from Broken Arrow, lost his wife to Alzheimer’s and said he supports all efforts to confront and defeat the disease. All Alzheimer’s Association services are free to the public.
Dementia is the second-largest contributor to death among older Americans, second only to heart failure. Alzheimer’s and dementia kill about 1,100 Oklahomans every year, according to the latest data.
In Oklahoma, 60,000 people live with Alzheimer’s disease. That figure is projected to be 76,000 by 2025.
Some 200,000 Oklahomans provide care for Alzheimer’s patients. Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.
“I spend a lot of time in areas of the state and I meet a lot of great people. It’s extremely rare for me to meet someone who does not share a story about their experience with Alzheimer’s,” Fried said.
“When it comes to support programs and services, the rapid escalation of the Alzheimer’s epidemic is beyond what any one organization can reasonably expect to do on its own. We will be constantly looking for opportunities to collaborate with local agencies while diligently recruiting passionate, skilled volunteers that can further our cause.”
While Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, the risk for developing the disease increases as people grow older. This places a spotlight on the baby boomer generation, said Fried.
Baby boomers are turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day. One in nine Americans over the age of 65 has dementia or Alzheimer’s. Half of people over age 85 have the disease. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease.
“Thanks to the Masonic Charitable Foundation, we are going to be able to accelerate our outreach in Oklahoma. Were it not for their very generous gift, we would be looking at years, not months, before we could have offices in Lawton, Enid and McAlester,” Fried said.