New York, New York
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization with a mission “to provide optimal care and services to individuals confronting dementia, and to their caregivers and families, through member organizations dedicated to improving quality of life.” AFA currently comprises 1,400+ member organizations nationwide that provide a range of hands-on services. AFA supports individuals and families through caregiver education, crisis counseling by licensed social workers, and respite care grants. AFA also provides technical and financial assistance to local non-profit member organizations to enhance programs and services.
Recognizing that teens are impacted by the rising incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, AFA Teens educates, engages and supports teens with direct, online education and interaction. Embracing teenagers’ thirst for the Internet, the division’s hallmark since 2003 has been its dedicated website, which at the time of this writing, was receiving between 35,000 and 45,000 hits each month. The site conveys information about the disease and caregiving tips in the peer-friendly and practical language that teens need while providing teens with several creative outlets for their thoughts and emotions. There is a moderated message board and Facebook page where teens can post observations and concerns and receive advice from AFA social workers, and teens may submit creative contributions, such as poems, essays, videos and scanned artwork, on an ongoing basis.
AFA added many of the creative enhancements in 2008, when AFA recruited a seven-member AFA Teens Advisory Board, consisting of interested high school students from across the country who provide leadership, feedback and blog entries. Also in 2008, a new network of AFA Teens chapters nationwide further fostered teen activism at the community level. Since, an increasing number of teens, individually or through chapters, have sponsored school/community events, volunteered and/or submitted blogs and creative contributions. AFA is aggressively seeking to recruit additional chapters. Partially in recognition of the financial stresses caregiving families face, but largely to provide a powerful creative outlet for teen caregivers, AFA introduced an annual $5,000 college scholarship in 2008; in 2010, more than 1,500 students competed.