Alzheimer’s and Family Caregivers Month 2015

Mara Botonis
By Mara BotonisNovember 6, 2015

This November, for Alzheimer’s and Family Caregivers Month, author Mara Botonis is sharing a story about honoring family caregivers and remembering those impacted by the disease.

Learn more from her story for Alzheimer’s and Family Caregivers Month 2015.

Honoring Those Impacted by Alzheimer’s

Karen Francis, MSW, CDP, started a “Lights of Love” candlelight service as a way to bring together Alzheimer’s families, friends and supporters, and to increase awareness about dementia and its effects on families. She shares:

“I started the Lights of Love candle lighting service in Pennsylvania several years ago. I have lost some of my favorite people in the world to dementia — my Nana, my Pop Pop and my Dad (at a young age with vascular dementia). I have lost more than my family, though. I ran many supports groups over the years for caregivers and people living with dementia. I have worked in long-term care for many years and became attached to many of my residents and their families. There is also one support group in particular… we shared so much for so many years. That group became my family too and we have lost many of our members who were living with some form of dementia and many caregivers as well. Now that I am part of several dementia related support groups with people from all over the world, I thought, “What better way to honor and remember those we have lost than making this a global way to share our stories with one another!”

Lights of love also honors all families and friends taking on the role of caregiving by allowing participants to share pictures and words of thanks for all care partners supporting persons living with dementia.

Alzheimer’s and Family Caregivers Month 2015

Francis chose the month of November as it coincides with two important events:

What she didn’t anticipate was the tremendous response she received from those all over the globe — last year’s virtual event had over 5,880 people participate.

During the month of November, participants in this international event are invited to share their photos and stories of both persons living with or lost to Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as family or friends that are caregivers for these diseases.

Francis hopes that the annual activity “Will be a beautiful and moving experience that will serve to heighten public awareness… and honor and support family caregivers and individuals with Alzheimer’s, as well as strengthen advocacy efforts.”

Here’s how you can get involved:

1. On Facebook, join the event.

2. Share a photo and a few words about the loved one you’d like to honor (either currently living with or passed away from Alzheimer’s, or a family caregiver ).

3. Take a moment during the month to light a candle in their honor and share a picture of yourself with your candle or light source.

Over the years, the event has inspired real world Lights of Love gatherings as support groups, families, churches and senior care communities have begun to host a Lights of Love candlelit ceremony in neighborhoods around the country.

Anyone can host a Lights of Love candle lighting event and it they now come in many shapes and forms:

  •  Some Lights of Love gatherings have a spiritual component as it offers an opportunity to come together in prayer while others are a celebration of life as loved ones or caregivers are collectively honored.
  • Others prefer to change their outdoor porch lights at home to purple (an internationally recognized color for Alzheimer’s Awareness) or wear a purple ribbon or purple clothing for part of the month.
Karen Francis at a Lights of Love candle lighting event.

Francis notes that there really in no wrong way to participate and hopes that:

“Whatever you do, and however you choose to do it, we just want people to take a moment to be thankful for the time we have with our loved ones now, remember the loved one(s) we lost to Alzheimer’s and dementia and recognize the wonderful family caregivers who give so much to others.”

How are you taking part in Alzheimer’s and Family Caregivers Month 2015? Share a story with us about how you’ve been affected by Alzheimer’s or who you’re honoring this year in the comments below.

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Mara Botonis

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