A statewide Alzheimer’s organization plans to use a $25,000 grant to launch an educational campaign in Oxford and Franklin counties and strengthen local support networks for those affected by dementia.

“We get our fair share of calls from your area,” Peg Gagnon of the Maine Alzheimer’s Association said Thursday.

The Maine Alzheimer’s Association is a state affiliation of a national group that provides information about the disease that causes dementia and supports those grappling with Alzheimer’s, both patients and caregivers. One of the services it provides is a 24-hour phone line to field calls for emergencies or inquiries.

The JTG Foundation, standing for John T. Gorman, a grandson of L.L. Bean, awarded the association $25,000 to build awareness of the disease in the two counties.

Statewide, 30,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s. In Franklin County there are 700 cases and Oxford County has 1,270 diagnosed patients.

Martha Greene, the managing director of the JTG foundation, said the MAA was one of the 27 organizations given grant money so far this year because it fits several of the charity’s criteria.

“This foundation is very supportive of initiatives that help the elderly of Maine,” she said. “The foundation has five areas of interest: the elderly, mental illness, disadvantaged children, cancer care and support, and community service. This benefits the elderly, mental illness and is a community service.”

Gagnon said one of the programs the association will offer is a four-part series for the friends of Alzheimer’s patients and caretakers. The time and place have not been decided, but the series will begin next spring.

“We hear often times once a diagnosis is received that friends sort of disappear,” Gagnon said. “At a time when they needed their friends the most, their friends fade away. Not that their friends are bad friends, they just don’t know how to communicate with a person with dementia.”

Another piece will be to spread information around the communities by putting flyers in places from hair salons to Wal-Mart, Gagnon said.

The association also said it will work with police departments to address the dangers of wandering as well as provide more educational information to hospitals, health centers, physicians, and social workers.

Finally, it may train more facilitators to offer support groups for families struggling with the disease. In Franklin County, there is one support group. Oxford has two: one in Rumford, the other in Paris.

“We want to build a community that has an awareness and can be supportive,” Gagnon said.


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