A new space dedicated exclusively to those with Alzheimer’s disease and their families has been added to Eisenhower Park.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and Nassau County opened a new respite care relief park to help those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, as well as their caregivers. The Eisenhower Park location is the second one of its kind in the country; the only other one is in the Town of Babylon.
More than 50,000 people on Long Island — or 3 percent — live with Alzheimer’s. More than 6.2 million people in the country live with the disease, said Chuck Fuschillo, the president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. There are over 100,000 caregivers.
“(We created) a respite relief park to give them a place to get out in the open, obviously in the beautiful park that’s here in Eisenhower Park, but also for the caregivers to come to a safe setting to avoid caregiver burnout,” Fuschillo said. “The caregivers in this county and throughout the island really are our heroes.”
The foundation and the county considered it important to create this park both to serve those who are living with the disease and to recognize the caregivers.
The respite relief park includes educational information about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, along with benches, a brick walkway, a gazebo and nice greenery. Its purpose is to enable a caregiver to have much needed relief and learn more about what resources are available for them. It’s also a place for a caregiver and their individual with Alzheimer’s or dementia to come and chat in a peaceful outdoor area.
“This is an integral part of what this park is about,” County Executive Bruce Blakeman said. “It’s not just about sporting events, it’s not just about cultural events, it’s not just about entertainment — it’s about a place where people can go to be with nature, in a peaceful setting, and it’s incredibly important to those who have been afflicted with Alzheimer’s and dementia.”
Blakeman said that he has heard from many people who have a family member with Alzheimer’s or dementia about how disrupting it is for families.
“They need places to go, they need programs, and that’s what the American Alzheimer’s Foundation does,” Blakeman said. “They create these programs; they create an environment to help not only people who are afflicted, but also those people who are living with it each and every day, the families and the caregivers.”
The creation of the park was funded by private donors and the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, a charitable foundation that provides funding for healthcare and health-related initiatives in New York. The foundation helped fund the Town of Babylon location, and a new one that will be built in Yonkers in the fall.
Fuschillo thanked County Legislator Tom McKevitt for taking the lead on the project after the legislature approved the park.
“Alzheimer’s is not only so tough for the person who’s going through it, but especially to the family and caregivers — it’s completely consuming to their life,” McKevitt said. “They want to have a place where they can go with their relative, with their loved one, and have a few moments of peace.”
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America was founded in 2002 by Bert Brodsky, whose mother lived with Alzheimer’s disease from 1980 to 1992. At the time that he was caring for her, he found that there was not a lot of information out there regarding the disease, and he struggled with how to find support. Now, the foundation helps hundreds of thousands of people annually.
“I never thought I could affect anybody’s life but my own, but I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to start the foundation and help those families that are dealing with this terrible, terrible disease,” Brodsky said. “The respite park is a perfect example of what could happen when you put your mind to something, and you try and make the world just a little bit better.”