Alzheimer’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by disruptive memory loss, affects more than 5 million Americans over age 65, and that number is only projected to rise in the absence of a cure, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. But to offer support for managing this devastating disease and other types of dementia, the Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation (LIAF), in Long Island, New York, offers individualized, stage-based programs that help stimulate cognition and encourage socialization in patients, while offering support for their loved ones.

A different approach

“LIAF is different from other organizations because we are providing hands-on programs and services to those individuals that are diagnosed and their families, from the early stages to the later stages of the disease,” says Tori Cohen, executive director of LIAF and a licensed social worker, who explains that other organizations in this field often focus only on research and education.

“These programs are effective because we are able to help choose the right path or individualized plan for each individual and their family.”

For the past 29 years and counting, LIAF has offered an array of programs to patients both at their homes and in their Westbury, New York facility, Cohen says. In a program titled Whimsical Wednesdays, patients and their caregivers can enjoy lunch, conversation, music and dancing. It’s all to help improve the quality of life for people with dementia, of which Alzheimer’s is the most common form. Furthermore, LIAF offers brain fitness workshops each month that are open to people who have not yet been diagnosed with dementia.

A tailored program

“These programs are effective because we are able to help choose the right path or individualized plan for each individual and their family,” Cohen says. “Certain programs are a better fit than others, but it all has to do with what stage the individual is in.”

One of the biggest underestimations about Alzheimer’s is the toll caregivers of these patients suffer from, experts say. This is why LIAF also offers support groups with social workers for caregivers.

“There is data out that shows that our types of programs do help diagnosed individuals and their families,” Cohen says. “We are giving ongoing support and guidance while they are with us that is invaluable.”

So far, the foundation has served 600 participants, but it hopes to serve 1,000 total this year. Considering there are an estimated 50,000 people on Long Island who have Alzheimer’s, that’s a significant impact in the community.

“The best treatment plan that I can suggest is making sure we are giving the individuals that are diagnosed a ‘life worth living’ after diagnosis,” Cohen says. “Being involved in a program like LIAF, that includes cognitive stimulating activities and socialization, is most important to foster an individual’s independence.