This year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s Springfield-Style is in the books. I will be talking about this one here for a while!!! I haven’t heard a head count, but there were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds there. The lawn at Jordan Valley Park was a sea of Alzheimer’s Promise Garden flowers with far too many representing each of the areas of relevance tying the person to the disease. While there is still money coming in, suffice it to say that between $100,000-200,000 has been raised by our little hamlet, which speaks of the love in the community, the hard work of Greater Missouri Chapter employees and the myriad of volunteers, and the immense need in our community. If you missed it, never fear…there are more opportunities to walk throughout Missouri and elsewhere. This Saturday I and my hometown of Bolivar walk(s). Here is the link for that event.
So, fellow walkers who have been blessed with an event already… What comes next? Well, I am not your Lord, nor your boss, so I cannot and will not demand anything of you, but will offer some humble suggestions. These suggestions I will break down, by the color of your promise garden flower (although most of these ideas would be great for all interested) :
- Orange is for everyone who supports the cause and vision of a world without Alzheimer’s. First, thank you! Thank you for joining in this fight! Second, welcome to the biggest task in your life. We need thousands and thousands of volunteers of every kind to beat this monster. Do you know a member of congress, whether state or federal, or at least are not afraid to lovingly contact them? Join the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, or AIM, the advocacy wing of the Alzheimer’s Association. These folks visit with congressmen/women in both parties to raise awareness on the subject. It is NOT a “red” or a “blue” thing tied to one party of the other, it is a purple thing…tied to anyone who will listen. If advocacy isn’t your bag, and you are in a position to do so, contact your local Alzheimer’s Association office to volunteer. Your local area agency on aging likely has volunteer opportunities in helping people with this terrible disease as well. Financial contributions, whether by one-time gift, recurring donations or planned giving will never go out of style because it takes a substantial staff and expense budget to keep these plates spinning in helping the millions who need help. The association runs on very low overhead, mainly because of its wonderful volunteers. Lastly, do you have your own Sweet 17 that you visit on a regular basis? They are in every nursing home, memory unit, skilled nursing facility or the like. Maybe you could check locally to see if they have volunteer opportunities? Maybe read to them or sing to/with them? Maybe hold a church service with an extension of your church family for them? Opportunities abound! 🙂 AND ALL ARE APPRECIATED DEARLY!!!
- Yellow represents someone who is currently supporting or caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. Hello Fellow Yellow Fellows (…and ladies. 😉 Some/many of our category have zero time to help right now. First, thank you for serving your loved one in this way. You are truly rock stars! You selflessly love and serve and deserve a million kudos! Secondly, keep up the good work! AND…while you are doing it, keep a journal. It is a wise idea to keep a medical care journal anyway, but make it a tad longer format. Highlight your medical journal part so it is easy to find as you need it, but jot down some things that will help folks later. Your experience in caring for a patient with dementia is invaluable. Millions need to hear it and get to feel less alone in the process. Perhaps you can join or start a support group someday? This information…your journal…will be huge! The things you have learned are not easily taught in a classroom or from a book. Be prepared, someday, to make lemonade out of the dementia lemons by helping someone else in the same boat. Find ways to tell your story. Call or visit your association office. Chances are they can help you find ways to raise awareness.
- Purple is for someone who has lost a loved one to the disease. First of all….I am very sorry. 🙁 Very sorry. Nobody knows as well as you how terrible this hot mess is. Nobody. Thank you for doing your very best to love/serve/care for your relative. You were and are important important to me and every reader here. Please, please, please take time to mourn. Take a break. Take a mini-vacation. Read and meditate on the Psalms. Talk to your pastor and/or a good therapist. You alone will know when you are ready. But, when you are ready, find a way to serve as part of the healing process. You may never understand the “Why my loved one/me?” part of the disease this side of eternity/heaven, but it is within your power to turn this terrible experience into a way to help others. It won’t take away the pain, but it will help you find some meaning and a silver lining out of the terrible experience. You have an experience that cannot easily be explained. Use it to help, when you are ready. It may very well be your mission field….your calling.
- Carrying a blue flower means you are living with Alzheimer’s. First, again, I am very sorry you have this burden! Despite being a part-time care giver often, I cannot imagine what you are going through! You are special and you are important and you are valued to me and to your family. Your ability to help is compromised, but is still critical. If you feel led, work with your doctor/neurologist to see if you are a candidate for one of the many clinical trials that are going on at any given time. The Alzheimer’s Association has a wonderful program called TrialMatch where they will help you (or anyone interested regardless of health status) find ways to work toward a cure through scientific medical programs performing trials. There are also research hospitals and universities out there working on a cure and they need your time (and your specimens) to help with a specific medicine. Some ask for blood samples, others ask for spinal fluid, and others ask, sadly, for organ donation for those who do not survive. All are part of the process for finding a cure. What a legacy to be part of the group that discovered a cure and started an age of white flowers at Walks to End Alzheimer’s! We will find a cure someday, Lord willing, and you can be on the front lines of helping. Thank you so very much!
- Carrying a white flower symbolizes being a survivor. There has never been a survivor, cured of the disease, YET. But there will be, and soon I hope and pray. Once there is a cure, we will need a million folks screaming from the tops of buildings (and on social media) to get the word out that a real cure has been found!!! What a glorious day that will be!
So much more could be said. To any carriers of any flower, do you have some time? Options abound:
- Give a break to a care giver
- Help in a senior center
- Read about the disease. The more you know, the better prepared you are to help
- Volunteer in a memory unit
- Become an Ombudsman
- Help a patient with transportation
- Donate to the Association
- Donate to SeniorAge or your local Area Agency on Aging
- Fight snake oil salesmen
- Host a Longest Day event
- Help organize a Walk to End Alzheimer’s in your town if it doesn’t have one
- Get involved in RivALZ
- Like to ride? Get involved in a Ride to End ALZ
- Read my blog and pass it on to someone who needs it. There are others better than mine. Forward their’s too. Good information is critical in fighting bad information
- Be creative… find your niche.
The figures are in and 5.8 million folks are living with Alzheimer’s Disease with 14 million expected by 2050. It is already the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. Something has to be done. Soon. Grab a flower of your choosing and let’s fight this together!
Update: Mom was the new normal all weekend. Happy, tired, worn down… I would love to give you good news that she is better, but at least I can refrain from bad news that she is worse. She is a fighter…always has been. She would have loved to have walked with us Saturday. I will see her again tonight for a while and will fill you in later. 🙂