Sometimes it is difficult to remember that Bernie Freed even has a last name. This is because whenever the name “Bernie” is mentioned, residents of North Miami, Florida, instinctively know of whom you speak. It appears to be true that legends are often known by one name; Bernie Freed is certainly a legend in the Alzheimer’s Association/South Florida Chapter’s service area. His reputation has even reached beyond their geographic region.
Freed’s foray into the devastating world of Alzheimer’s unfortunately began when the love of his life, his dear wife May, was diagnosed with the dreaded disease. Crushed, but with a resolve to press forward, Freed became a model caregiver, meeting May’s every need. Fortunately, the Alzheimer’s Association/South Florida Chapter was there to provide assistance and he went to the organization for support.
Freed, out of his own need, saw the importance of the work with Alzheimer’s patients and decided to become a volunteer for the Chapter. He began by helping jumpstart the Telephone Reassurance Program, calling caregivers from home. As often happens, the effect of Alzheimer’s disease on a loved one becomes so overwhelming that caregivers are forced to place them in a facility. Freed reluctantly placed May in a facility and was devastated by the harsh reality of this action. Instead of becoming mired in self-pity and depression, he immersed himself in the work of the Chapter. That was 10 years ago; May has since passed away but Freed rarely ever missed a day visiting her making sure she was well cared for and happy.
Freed is always at the Chapter office every day no later that 9:30am. In order to accomplish that, he has to arise hours earlier to prepare himself to be able to function. It is quite an ordeal for him to be able to leave the house in the morning because Freed is now 91 years young and handicapped. He is bent and stooped and walks with the help of a stroller, always in constant pain from crippling arthritis coupled with other health issues. However Freed, somehow, is able to see these things as challenges to be overcome. His can-do attitude and smiling face belie any problems. He is truly the “poster boy” for the power of positive thinking – positive thinking being the catalyst for positive action.
He is still the driving force in the Telephone Reassurance Program through which he has spread his own very special kind of light by inspiring, touching and helping thousands of caregivers through the maze that is Alzheimer’s. His special brand of compassionate assistance and his perceptive ability to know when to just listen is invaluable to caregivers who have reached the end of their rope. He literally changes lives.
Freed also has “special cases” he likes to call during the evening and on weekends. For years he has been the facilitator for the Chapter’s largest and most popular support group. Now, at age 9l, he is helping one of the sister chapters implement a Telephone Reassurance Program. Freed receives mail at the Chapter addressed to Dr. Freed, Private Practice because those he serves believes he should have a title after his name – something equally as earned and important as any M.D., Ph.D. or Esq. — perhaps, Freed H.B.E. (Human Being Extraordinaire) or Freed G.A. (Guardian Angel).