One out of every three families in Pennsylvania is affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

One out of every three families in Pennsylvania is affected by Alzheimer’s disease. That number includes 270,000 patients and their nearly 700,000 unpaid caregivers. No cure is yet in sight. So it is not surprising that Clay Jacobs, vice president of Programs and Services for the Greater Pennsylvania Alzheimer’s Association, calls the disease “the public health epidemic of the century.”

“Alzheimer’s is so much more than just memory loss,” says Mr. Jacobs. “It’s a progressive, fatal disease — the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., and the only one in the top 10 that’s on the rise.”

The long-term goal of the Alzheimer’s Association is a cure; the national organization is the world’s largest nonprofit funder of research. In the short term, the association focuses on prevention, early diagnosis and the addition of three to five quality years to patients’ lifespans. To do its part, the Greater Pennsylvania chapter is using every tool it has, including its powerful volunteer base. With only 35 paid staff members statewide, the chapter relies heavily on the energy and dedication of 1,800 volunteers, who handle duties ranging from fundraising and office work to support and advocacy.

“Most of our volunteers have been directly affected by Alzheimer’s through a family member, and as advocates for patients with the disease, their personal stories are incredibly impactful,” says Mr. Jacobs, who notes that many volunteers are Geisinger employees. The chapter has also partnered with the Geisinger Aging Brain Clinic and Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine to spread the word about the challenges of Alzheimer’s and the programs and services the association offers.

“Does your family need Alzheimer’s support or education? If so, we are here for you,” he says. Likewise, anyone looking for a meaningful volunteer opportunity should contact the chapter today. “There’s a small way for you to help in our fight,” he says, “and we will help you find it.”