Thanks to a three-year partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church is working to combat Alzheimer’s disease and to support patients and caregivers who face it.
The AME Church, America’s oldest historically African-American denomination, has more than 2 million members in the United States. Research shows that African Americans face an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s, as well as a decreased rate of securing a diagnosis. Through its partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association, the AME Church aims to help the communities it serves learn more about the disease, its risk factors, and the many resources that are available.
AME Church Venture Covers Six Key Areas
For the first year of the partnership, leaders from both organizations plan to engage AME Church members in activities such as:
- Increasing concern and awareness of Alzheimer’s and other dementias
- Providing care and support programming to individuals and families impacted by Alzheimer’s
- Expanding research and scientific opportunities
- Supporting state and federal advocacy efforts affecting Alzheimer’s
- Participating in Walk to End Alzheimer’s and other community-based events
- Engaging AME Church volunteers in the delivery of programs and activities
On its Health Commission website, the AME Church is posting educational materials from the Alzheimer’s Association and linking to various services that are available, including a 24/7 national helpline: 800-272-3900.
An estimated 5.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, or about one in every 10 Americans age 65 and older. Experts say that number could rise to 16 million by the year 2050. Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death in the top 10 that can’t be prevented, slowed, or cured.
‘For me, it’s very personal’
Bishop Harry L. Seawright, president of the AME Council of Bishops and chairman of the denomination’s Health Commission, says his church body looks forward to the partnership. “I know how devastating this disease can be,” he says. “My mother passed away 13 years ago from Alzheimer’s, and my sister, who is one of my biggest cheerleaders, has dementia. So, for me, it’s very personal. It’s important that we connect our community with information about Alzheimer’s and where people can go for help.”
Seawright adds: “Many in our [African-American] community suffer with hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses that can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. We want to encourage our community to learn more so they can reduce their risk. We also want to support our caregivers, who struggle with such loss, including a loved one who may no longer remember them.”
As the partnership developed, Seawright says, he became “enlightened” by the “magnitude of services the Alzheimer’s Association provides.” The joint venture, he adds, “will help connect our community with more of these services, so people can get the help and information they need.”
Rey Martinez, chief diversity and inclusion officer for the Alzheimer’s Association, says the partnership is extending his organization’s reach “into communities served by the AME Church, providing more families care and support services, while engaging church members in all our work to end Alzheimer’s.”