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Alzheimer’s Assn. Seeks to Expand Its Volunteer Base

Responding to a heightened demand for services, the Alzheimer’s Assn. of Orange County is attempting to double its volunteer base, according to Kim Robinson, the nonprofit agency’s program director.

“We have a very small staff, so we are totally reliant on our wonderful corps of volunteers,” Robinson said. “We have about 300 volunteers, which sounds like a lot, but we could easily use twice as many.”

An estimated 40,000 Alzheimer’s patients live in Orange County, she said.

One of the most pressing needs is for workers to operate a phone information service at the agency’s headquarters. This free service provides information about the disease and resources available to patients and their families.

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In addition, teams of volunteers are needed to make home visits that help “reduce the isolation” often experienced by Alzheimer’s patients and their care-givers, Robinson said. Volunteers are also needed to conduct support groups for care-givers throughout the county.

Modern medical technology is allowing people to live longer, Robinson said, but this also increases the risk of becoming afflicted with an age-related disease such as Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is the fourth-leading cause of death among older adults, Robinson said. The ailment strikes 10% of people 65 and older and 47% older than 85.

“There is more quantity of life but not always a quality of life,” Robinson said.

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Although Alzheimer’s is primarily associated with senior citizens, “we’re also seeing young patients,” Robinson said. “I’ve heard of patients in their 30s, and some of those patients have young children.”

“We don’t know what causes Alzheimer’s, so we don’t have a cure for it,” she said. “But we have discovered ways to manage it better.”

In the final stage of the disease, “the person is totally helpless,” Robinson said, which can place an extreme burden on family members and other care-givers.

“There is very little government support,” she said. “It is devastating not only emotionally but financially.”

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The next training session for new volunteers is scheduled for 1 to 3 p.m. Aug. 26 at the agency’s headquarters, 2540 N. Santiago Blvd., in Orange. Information: (714) 283-1111.


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