On a Friday afternoon, Susan Williams and her husband David return home from their physician’s office. Susan’s heart is racing as she struggles to hold back her tears. She tries to smile as she tells her husband she’s going upstairs to take a quick shower and change clothes before joining him to talk about their visit over a cup of coffee.

Susan’s fingers tremble as she dials a number into the phone. Someone picks up.

“Hello, thank you for calling the Alzheimer’s Association,” says the voice on the other end. “How may I help you?”

Susan’s voice cracks. She can hear herself talking, but it’s as if she is listening to someone else. “Is there someone I can talk to about my husband— I mean, the doctor thought I should call you,” Susan explains. “I, we, need help. My husband has Alzheimer’s disease; he’s only 59. I don’t know what to do.” Susan breaks down and begins to cry.

This is a typical call that the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater New Jersey Chapter, receives on a daily basis. The call marks the beginning of a long journey of discovery and healing for many individuals in New Jersey who find themselves staring Alzheimer’s disease square in the face. Oftentimes, we’re the first place people turn to after receiving a diagnosis, or the last place turned to before visiting an Alzheimer patient’s physician. In either scenario, people are looking for answers.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disease that destroys brain cells, causing problems with memory, thinking and behavior severe enough to affect work, lifelong hobbies or relationships. Alzheimer’s disease is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, afflicting as many as 5.3 million people. In New Jersey, more than 350,000 individuals and their care partners are affected by it. Currently, there is no cure. But there is hope

What is the Alzheimer’s Association?

The Alzheimer’s Association is the largest national voluntary health organization dedicated to advancing research for the causes, treatments and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. Its mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research, to provide and enhance care and support for all affected and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.

The Greater New Jersey Chapter was first incorporated in 1985 as the Northern New Jersey Chapter. Like most of the Alzheimer’s Association affiliated chapters across the country, ours was founded by a small group of family members of people with Alzheimer’s disease who had come together to support one another and raise awareness on behalf of those with Alzheimer’s disease and their families. In 2000, it merged with the then former Central New Jersey Chapter, and the organization was renamed the Greater New Jersey Chapter. The Alzheimer’s Association is a designated 501c (3) organization by the IRS and is independently governed by a very dedicated volunteer board of directors comprised of a diverse group of business and community leaders.

The Greater New Jersey Chapter of the Alzheimer Association serves 14 northern New Jersey counties through four office locations in Denville, Princeton, Oradell and Red Bank, with the dedication of volunteers and a highly skilled professional staff. The association carries out its mission in the community by providing 24-hour Helpline services, professional staff care consultation, community and professional education and training programs, support groups and respite care assistance services by collaborating with research centers, increasing public awareness and advocating on behalf of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

How can children and parents can make a difference?

Individuals and families affected by Alzheimer’s disease, and all members of the community, can get involved and support the work of the Alzheimer’s Association in many ways. One great way is by participating in the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk, the nation’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Since 1989, the Memory Walk has raised more than $300 million for the cause. Planning for the 2010 Memory Walk is already underway. Call to learn more about how you can help.