Alzheimer’s impact growing in Alabama

Published 6:00 am Sunday, June 30, 2024

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Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia that affects memory, thinking and behavior, is an increasing concern in Alabama, with symptoms eventually becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 104,000 people aged 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s in Alabama and 14.3% of people aged 45 and older experience subjective cognitive decline. 

The burden of the disease is also felt by 217,000 family caregivers in the state, who provide 387 million hours of unpaid care valued at $5.3 billion, while the cost to the state Medicaid program is $1.1 billion.

For Greenville native Melisa Mote, the statistics became a reality in 2017 when her mother Frances was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Mote and her sister became full time caregivers.

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“I remember one night in August, I put my mother to bed and she was her normal self,” Mote recalled. “The next morning when I walked into her room, she smiled the biggest smile and asked me what my name was.”

Despite the challenges, Mote reflects positively on her experience.

“It wasn’t easy but I’m so glad that we did it,” Mote said. After her mother’s passing, Mote joined the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. I started a team and we walked that first year… now I’m co-chair of the River Region walk.” 

Mote is also involved in Alzheimer’s advocacy, having traveled to Washington for the past three years to promote awareness. 

“My mother passed in 2017 and we were her full-time caregivers,” Mote said. “We didn’t know anything. We didn’t even get a diagnosis until she was sent home on hospice.”

A new bill in progress aims to assist people in rural areas by educating doctors on the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

“It gets doctors more familiar with what to look for so that they can spot these symptoms earlier,” Mote explained. “New drugs are showing promise if you catch them early, so we really need to spread awareness. And they can do the training online so I’m very excited about that.”

In honor of her mother, Mote started Frances’ Fighters to raise funds for Alzheimer’s awareness and research. 

“We did a cookbook a few years ago that was really successful and this year we’re doing a calendar,” Mote said. “Everything we earn will go to the Alzheimer’s Association.”

In a recent proclamation, Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon designated June as Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month in Greenville. “In this day and time we’re seeing the effects of this disease more and more. It seems to impact just about every family in some way,” McLendon said. “I know it affected mine with my mother and I’m glad to have the opportunity to stress the importance of Alzheimer’s awareness.”