HAMLET — With Alzheimer’s disease, it’s not just the patients who suffer. It’s also their caregivers — a role that usually falls to family and friends.
A candlelight reflection service will be held Thursday evening at 6 p.m. inside Cole Auditorium to bring together caregivers, patients’ families and health care workers to honor those suffering from the disease and those who provide comfort and care.
November is national family caregiver month and Alzheimer’s awareness month, said Nikki Sewell, director of the Hamlet Senior Center.
“Candlelight Reflections program is held to honor the caregivers in the community, to let them know that they’re not alone in caring for their loved ones,” said Sewell. “It also provides a hope for the future, that there will be a cure eventually for Alzheimer’s and type of dementia. It also helps reflect and remember those who have gone on with these types of diseases.”
Around the state of North Carolina, candlelight services will be held Thursday night to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s prevalence and the affect the disease has on patients’ family and friends.
According to statistics provided by the Alzheimer’s Assocation during last year’s event held at Mount Olive Baptist Church, 15.7 million family members and friends provided 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care to people with the disease and other forms of dementia in 2014, at an economic value of more than $217 billion. Of the unpaid Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers, 75 percent have been providing care for at least a year, and a third have been providing for five or more years.
Seven candles of different colors, each representing a specific theme will be lit one by one by those participating in the program.
The blue candle is for honoring family members who have been affected by illness, injury, old age, mental conditions and other impairments that have caused them to rely on others for their day-to-day care.
The green candle is for awareness that Alzheimer’s disease affects over 5.4 million United States citizens and is now the sixth leading cause of death for people over age 65.
Orange represents understanding for the anguish, uncertainty and loss felt by one of every of nine people over the age of 65 who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and for understanding the stress that families experience watching a loved one who is struggling to carry on daily life activities.
Hope is represented by the yellow candle and is for researchers, physicians and those who participate in clinical trials that test new medications.
The white candle pays tribute to all family caregivers who provide emotional and physical care, financial support, arrange for care coordination and home maintenance for a family member or friend who is sick, disabled or growing frail with age.
The red candle is to recognize the need to develop caring communities to help those looking after a loved one with illness or advanced age.
Finally, the purple candle stands for remembrance for those who have lost their life.
“This is a way to honor caregivers, remember the ones that have passed on and to give hope for the future for a cure,” said Sewell. “There is the struggle to retain dignity. However, there is a small ray of light. This can often be found in our caregivers.”
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-817-2674 and follow him on Twitter @mattyharrelson.