By Dr. Colleen Morley DNP, RN, CCM, CMAC, CMCN, ACM-RN, FCM
As November arrives, so does National Alzheimer's Awareness Month – a time to shine a light on one of the most pressing health challenges of our time. This month-long campaign serves as a powerful reminder of the impact Alzheimer's disease has on individuals, families, and communities worldwide. It is a time for education, support, and advocacy as we strive to create a world where Alzheimer's is better understood, prevented, and treated.
Alzheimer's disease, a progressive brain disorder, affects millions of people, robbing them of their memories, cognitive abilities, and independence. As the global population ages, the prevalence of Alzheimer's continues to rise, making it a critical public health concern. However, this month is not just about acknowledging the numbers; it's about recognizing the human faces behind the statistics.
National Alzheimer's Awareness Month provides an opportunity to raise public awareness about the disease's early signs and symptoms. Recognizing memory loss, confusion, and behavioral changes in oneself or a loved one can lead to early detection and intervention, improving the quality of life for those affected. Awareness campaigns aim to dispel the stigma surrounding Alzheimer's, encouraging individuals to seek medical advice without fear or shame.
Caregivers, often family members, play a pivotal role in supporting individuals with Alzheimer's. This month is also about recognizing the selflessness and dedication of these caregivers. Their tireless efforts in providing physical, emotional, and psychological care are immeasurable. We must ensure they have the resources, information and support they need to navigate the challenges of caregiving.
Recently, I have been involved in a project declaring Orland Park, IL, as a “dementia-friendly community”. Key stakeholders came together (business owners, elected officials, concerned citizens, family caregivers and more) to create accessible public spaces, supportive businesses, public awareness and education alongside healthcare and support services for persons diagnosed with dementia as well as their caregivers.
Dementia-friendly cities have far-reaching benefits for individuals with dementia, their caregivers, and the entire community. By providing a supportive environment, these cities enable people with dementia to maintain their independence, reduce the risk of accidents or wandering, and enhance their overall well-being. Additionally, dementia-friendly initiatives help reduce the burden on caregivers and foster a more compassionate and understanding society. It is a very enriching project, and I hope to see more “dementia-friendly” city designations taking root across the country.
As we recognize National Alzheimer's Awareness Month, let us commit to learning more about the disease and its impact. Let us show compassion and support to those living with Alzheimer's and their caregivers. Let us advocate for policies that prioritize dementia care and research. Together, we can create a world where Alzheimer's is no longer a cause for fear but a challenge we face with knowledge, empathy, and hope.
Every action, no matter how small, contributes to the larger movement for a brighter, more dementia-friendly world. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of those affected by Alzheimer's and bring hope to the millions seeking a cure.
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Bio: Dr. Colleen Morley DNP RN CCM CMAC CMCN ACM-RN FCM is the Associate Chief Clinical Operations Officer, Care Continuum for University of Illinois Health System and the current President of the Case Management Society of America National Board of Directors. She has held positions in acute care as Director of Case Management at several acute care facilities and managed care entities in Illinois, overseeing Utilization Review, Case Management and Social Services for over 14 years; piloting quality improvement initiatives focused on readmission reduction, care coordination through better communication and population health management. Her current passion is in the area of improving health literacy. She is the recipient of the CMSA Foundation Practice Improvement Award (2020) and ANA Illinois Practice Improvement Award (2020) for her work in this area. Dr. Morley also received the AAMCN Managed Care Nurse Leader of the Year in 2010 and the CMSA Fellow of Case Management designation in 2022. Her 1st book, “A Practical Guide to Acute Care Case Management”, published by Blue Bayou Press was released in February, 2022. Dr. Morley has over 20 years of nursing experience. Her clinical specialties include Med/Surg, Oncology and Pediatric Nursing. She received her ADN at South Suburban College in South Holland, IL; BSN at Jacksonville University in Jacksonville, FL, MSN from Norwich University in Northfield, VT and her DNP at Chamberlain College of Nursing.