FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 19, 2008
(415) 434-3388 ext. 312 or
In Memory: FCA CoFounder Anne Bashkiroff
SAN FRANCISCO—Anne Bashkiroff passed away on Wednesday, November 19, 2008 at age 85. Mrs. Bashkiroff was a co-founder of Family Caregiver Alliance in San Francisco, and was involved in the development of the Alzheimer’s Association. In the last three decades of her life she was tirelessly devoted to the cause of families and caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, brain injury and other debilitating illnesses that strike adults. Mrs. Bashkiroff turned private tragedy into new public policy, and in the course of so doing, helped improve the lives of caregivers throughout the nation.
Mrs. Bashkiroff was born in Tsingtao, China to Russian immigrant parents who had fled their homeland in Siberia during the Russian Revolution. She learned early to adapt to life on an international scale.
Educated in English schools in China and Japan, she became bilingual in Russian and English, and conversant in Chinese, Japanese, French and Spanish. She left China in 1947 to attend UCLA, but her plans for a college degree changed when her marriage to Alexander (Sasha) Bashkiroff necessitated a move to Argentina. They lived in Buenos Aires for five years, awaiting their visas to return to the United States as permanent residents.
They settled in San Francisco, where Mrs. Bashkiroff served for 20 years as corporate secretary to the board of directors of Children’s Hospital. Her community activism began with her husband’s tragic illness. He fell victim to Alzheimer’s disease, which, at that time, did not have the public recognition—and none of the support services—it now has. Mr. Bashkiroff was ill for nine years, and died in 1978.
With members of the Mental Health Association in San Francisco, Anne became a co-founder and passionate spokesperson for the “Family Survival Project for Brain Damaged Adults”—a small task force which subsequently grew into Family Caregiver Alliance and the National Center on Caregiving.
At times driven to despair by the challenges of caring for her husband when virtually no programs existed to help, Mrs. Bashkiroff provided a voice to other caregivers who had found little acknowledgement of their situations. She often said that her struggle was to make “‘caregiving’ a word, not a sentence.”
The organization’s vision was to create support services for those struggling to care for a loved one who did not fit into the traditional mental health systems: adults with Alzheimer’s disease, victims of stroke, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injuries, Huntington’s disease and other debilitating cognitive disorders. The diagnoses were all different, but the families shared the common challenges of isolation, lack of information, few community resources, and drastic changes in family roles. The original task force had three lasting results: the formation of Family Caregiver Alliance; the genesis of a statewide network of Caregiver Resource Centers; and the beginnings of a movement to recognize the immense contribution of family caregivers to the long-term health care of the ill and elderly in our country.
The volunteers’ determination carried them to Sacramento, where, with support of then-Assemblyman Art Agnos and others, in 1984 legislators passed the first statewide legislation in the nation to provide a full array of support services for brain-damaged adults and their families. This program later became a model for the National Family Caregiver Support Program, established in 2001.
Mrs. Bashkiroff was a major force in giving national voice to a heretofore closet illness and its impacts on families. In testimony before the Presidential Commission on Mental Health, presided over by former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, Mrs. Bashkiroff stated: “We do not want to be punished by the system we uphold as we have already been punished by fate…just as we recognize veterans of war in our country, we must recognize veterans of life.”
Mrs. Bashkiroff was also an active participant at the inception of the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders (ADRDA) organization in Chicago, IL and served as Vice President. She served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Mental Health Association of San Francisco for a number of years.
From 1980 – 1985 Mrs. Bashkiroff also became actively involved in the Americanization process of many Soviet émigré families in the Bay Area, each of whom today represents an American success story.
Mrs. Bashkiroff’s story is profiled in a 1985 book, “For Sasha, with Love – an Alzheimer’s Crusade,” written by Gail Bernice Holland, published by Dembner Books. The book tells how Anne Bashkiroff turned the tragedy of her husband’s illness into a social and political triumph. It was re-released in 2007 under the title “Forget-Me-Not, A Memoir of Anne Bashkiroff’s Alzheimer’s Crusade” published by Purdue University Press.
According to FCA Executive Director Kathleen Kelly, “Anne’s original plea for help, not only for herself but others who found themselves in the exhausting and thankless role of caregiver, has reached far beyond her first presentation to a handful of people in the basement of a San Francisco church. Over the past 30 years, her vision, tenacity and energy inspired Family Caregiver Alliance to make the Bay Area, California and the nation a much different place for caregivers, reducing the stigma of caring for someone with a brain disorder while providing support, resources and hope.”
Mrs. Bashkiroff continued to be an active supporter of Family Caregiver Alliance until the end of her life, which came, ironically, during National Family Caregivers Month in November. She is survived by her son, Nicholas, daughter-in-law Peggy, granddaughter Sasha, and many friends and colleagues. The family suggests donation to Family Caregiver Alliance (click here to donate online) or the Jewish Home of San Francisco.
Ms. Bashkiroff was recognized for her work with many awards over the years, including:
|The national Jefferson Award from the Institute of Public Service for "outstanding dedication, sacrifice and accomplishment for the community"
||The Women's International Center's Living Legacy Award
||The Jane S. Ophuls Leadership Award. "In appreciation of her leadership, inspiration and support as Founder and Honorary Chair of Family Survival Project"
||The Points of Light Celebration's Top Bay Area Volunteer Award
||The Benny Award, Women's International Center
||Founder's Award, Alzheimer's Association, "For dedication and vision of a world without Alzheimer's"
||Nominated for the Presidential Medal of Freedom
||Rosalynn Carter Caregiving Award recognizing leadership and innovation in caregiving
||Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition
||Genesis Award, Alzheimer's Association
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