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A longtime advocate for individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related dementia disorders, Mary Barnes, the CEO of Alzheimer's Community Care, is changing the way we regard mental health.
As one of the founding members of Alzheimer's Community Care, president and CEO Mary Barnes has always been the kind of leader others go to when something needs to be done.
In 1996, Barnes, along with three founding members, realized that no specialized treatments or services existed locally for individuals with dementia. They also noticed that the number of people affected by Alzheimer's disease was growing. Despite being busy with lives, careers, and issues of their own, they established the non-profit Alzheimer's Community Care.
Barnes, a Boynton Beach resident who hails from Connecticut, is passionate about her commitment to the organization that provides health services for individuals suffering with neurocognitive disorders, including Alzheimer's.
“I felt such an organization needed to be established to provide services that were appropriate, accessible and affordable within the community,” Barnes says. “The organization also needed to be equally committed to caring and helping both the caregiver and the patient throughout the duration of the disease.”
For Barnes, becoming the head of the team, charged with providing specialized, quality and community-based care for individuals and families struggling with the effects of the disease, didn't take a second thought. When she began working with Alzheimer's disease, Barnes says there was only a one-paragraph description of it in medical publications, and even those definitions concluded that Alzheimer's was only diagnosed in younger individuals. Over age 65, the term used was senility, and medical professionals felt there was nothing that could be done. “Thank goodness that has changed,” Barnes says.
Now, most individuals are diagnosed first with a neurocognitive disorder. Then, medical doctors are able to pinpoint the type of disease afflicting the patient.
Since Barnes became the CEO of the non-profit organization, Alzheimer's Community Care has grown and now serves 4,500 individuals in the tri-county service area of Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties with a team of professionals skilled and trained in dementia-specific care and education. In addition to 10 specialized adult day service centers, the organization also offers family nurse consultants, a 24-hour Alzheimer's crisis line, support groups and case management.
Barnes is committed to Alzheimer's Community Care and its mission over the long haul. She feels it is not only her gift to her three children and six grandchildren, but it's her legacy to help those who are affected by this disease. Barnes was also a driving force in getting the Silver Alert legislation passed in Florida. The alert, which was approved in 2008, serves as a public notification system that broadcasts information about missing senior citizens, many of whom have Alzheimer's disease, dementia or other mental disabilities. Barnes still serves as the Chair of the Florida Silver Alert Committee.
She says her work with the Salvation Army and her dad influenced her to help others.
“[My dad] often said that when a person needs help, you only have that one opportunity to make a difference, and if you don't provide that assistance, you will never have another opportunity,” Barnes says. “All of us at Alzheimer's Community Care must provide that assistance every time we have the opportunity to respond to the request because that is the belief our organization was founded on.”