Ex-restaurateur B. Smith fighting Alzheimer's by spreading awareness with new campaign

Alzheimer’s isn’t stopping ex-model and former restaurateur Barbara Smith – known as B. Smith – from bringing awareness to the disease and the caregivers who play a vital role in the lives of those fighting it.

Smith and her husband, Dan Gasby, have partnered with the Caregiver Action Network for a social media campaign designed to help caregivers of the nearly five million Americans battling the brain disorder.

They are urging people to share a memory or picture of someone who has or had Alzheimer’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest using the hashtag #Take1Moment.

In return, the campaign will give a “thank you meal” to a caregiver courtesy of Chef’d, a gourmet meal delivery service. They plan to give away 1,000 meals.

“Caregivers are like first responders in the family. They run to the situation as opposed to running away,” Gasby told TheGrio.com on Monday, which is World Alzheimer’s Day.

“The thing about being a caregiver and the husband is that sometimes the roles get to be intermingled and you have to make decisions or you have to sort of be a parent at times,” said Gasby, who has been married to Smith for 23 years and her caregiver since she was diagnosed four years ago.

“It can be a very stressful situation, but you have to learn to be patient,” Gasby said. “We have such a strong love and commitment for each other that we work through those things.”

In November, Smith, 66, made headlines when she was reported missing from her Long Island home, but was found safely 14 hours later in a Manhattan diner.

Smith, who was the first black model on the cover of Mademoiselle in 1976, told TheGrio.com that she feels “great” and couldn’t fight this battle without her husband. He regularly encourages her to exercise and read. She also still enjoys cooking.

“He’s with me the whole time. I’ve been feeling good about all the things that we’ve been doing together,” said Smith, who hosted the popular TV show, “B. Smith with Style” and owned three southern comfort food restaurants (which have now all closed).

The couple said they’ve also gotten involved in the fight against Alzheimer’s because blacks are two times more likely than whites to develop the degenerative brain disease, which is the sixth leading cause of death in the country.

According to a study conducted in 2013 by the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging in Chicago, Alzheimer’s rates could nearly triple by 2050.

But Gasby is hopeful the continued awareness can lead to a different outcome.

“I believe 20 years from now the kids are going to be saying, ‘I heard of Alzheimer’s, what is it?’ But we can only do that if we start now by talking about it and taking care of the people who are taking care of the people who have Alzheimer’s,” he added. “We’re going to find a cure for this.”

Smith, who has authored three books on cooking and lifestyle, is currently working on a new book about dealing with Alzheimer’s, which is due out in January. It will be co-authored with her husband.

But Smith isn’t waiting for the book to come out to send a strong message to people fighting Alzheimer’s.

When asked to share words of encouragement, Smith swiftly responded with three words: “Never give up.”

For more information about the campaign, visit caregiveraction.org.

Michael J. Feeney is an award-winning journalist and public speaker. Follow him on Twitter @mfeeney.