There are startling statistics that grow more troubling by the minute. Every 65 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease. Currently, 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and by 2050, this number is projected to rise to nearly 14 million.
The Alzheimer’s Association has now identified that African Americans develop Alzheimer’s at a higher rate than any other group of Americans. They are about twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to develop the disease or other forms of dementia, according to the association, a group that focuses on research, care and education.
While there remains no cure for the disease, for those affected there is help. The Alzheimer’s Association, Southeast Florida Chapter, is a local organization committed to helping families in seven counties: Okeechobee, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Our professionally staffed 24/7 Helpline (1-800-272-3900) offers information and advice.
By Michelle F. Solomon
Fiona Chavers was always “Daddy’s Little Girl,” you can hear how proud she is of her father, Rev. Warren Chavers, when she speaks about her “Poppy.” The influential minister in Canton, Ohio, established Deliverance Christian Church at 29, which he led for 35 years. He has many accolades, among them delivering the invocation for then presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama in 2008.
Fiona’s relationship with her Poppy blossomed. “We had gone from being father-daughter to him being my best guy friend,” says Fiona. “Having dealt with so many things in his own life, he helped so many people and always had great advice.”
In November 2014, the family of eight children was called together; Fiona flew in from California. She had noticed something different about Poppy the summer before. “He referred to me as someone else and didn’t remember some of his grandchildren. Doctors said he had a B-12 deficiency,” she recalls.
Rev. Chavers and wife, Adrienne, told the family the diagnosis. It was Alzheimer’s disease. He was just 60. “He just sat there, like a small boy, and then said, ‘we’ll get through this together,’” says Fiona.
It was a range of emotions. “It was like my whole world had died with my dad, except he was alive. I was so hurt. How was I going to continue building the beautiful relationship I had started to enjoy?” she asked herself.
To be connected to him, when she moved to Florida, she explored more about Alzheimer’s disease. Fiona found the Alzheimer’s Association- Southeast Florida Chapter and joined its Walk to End Alzheimer’s-Broward committee. “It is a way to give back in honor of my dad who passed away way too soon,” she says.
More information can be found by visiting https://www.alz.org/seflorida/