Caring for a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia is among the most difficult things families must endure. To watch cherished memories fade away, taking with them the person that you knew, is simultaneously frightening, frustrating and heartbreaking. It’s all too easy to feel hopelessly isolated and alone as they navigate this difficult journey.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. The Alzheimer’s Association works tirelessly throughout the year, not just to raise funds to finance care, support, and research for those suffering from the disease, but also to reach out to the friends, families, and loved ones who care for them to let them know that they are most definitely not alone in their struggle.
About 400 walkers gathered at Sunset Grille in Michigan City’s Washington Park on the beautiful lakefront to show support in the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s. The event is the largest fundraiser in the nation, in support of Alzheimer’s and dementia care research and awareness. Today’s event raised 69,500, exceeding all goals, with 78 cents of every dollar going back to funding the mission which includes research and care and support.
“We’re really focusing a lot on research, with the hopes to find a treatment which would stop or at least slow the progression of the disease,” said Sara Spruth, Walk Manager for Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
The cause is a personal one for Spruth, who lost her mother earlier this year to Alzheimer’s.
“The effects of Alzheimer’s can be challenging for caregivers, since those suffering from the disease can struggle for several years, causing not only emotional strain, but can also present a significant financial struggle for families to cope with. A lot of what we do is to raise awareness and make sure that those families have access to the emotional support they need.”
Alzheimer’s Association hosts support groups across the country and sponsors educational programs, available both in-person and via their website. These resources help inform and educate the public as to what exactly Alzheimer’s and dementia are, as well as help them recognize and understand the different stages of the disease.
Mary Heinz, Business Office Coordinator for Brookdale Senior Living in Valparaiso, was manning one of the vendor booths set up at the event. Heinz says that she hopes to see a cure for the disease someday.
“Some people don’t really understand what Alzheimer’s is, so it helps to get that information out there. It also helps to raise awareness and build community support. We see the effects of this disease every day while caring for those living with it. Ultimately, we hope that one day, there will no longer be a need for Alzheimer’s care,” said Heinz.
“It helps to make the families feel a little less alone.”
Many of those walking in the annual event have been personally affected by the disease through the struggles of loved ones.
Samantha Ravenscroft, of Westville, was walking with her family, in memory of her grandmother.
“My grandma passed away from Alzheimer’s a few years ago. We started doing the walk after she was diagnosed, sort of as a way to get her out and about. Then, after she passed away, we just kept coming here.”
Darlyne Burns of Michigan City was walking on behalf of “Shirley’s Team”, one of the larger groups at the walk. Burns lost her father and niece to Alzheimer’s and is currently helping her daughter-in-law, who is now struggling with the disease.
“It helps to see all the people come out here, it really does,” said Burns. “And my family is incredibly helpful as well. Alzheimer’s Association really does a great job raising support.”
“The more support we get, the closer we are to finding a cure.”
For more information about Alzheimer’s Association and the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, visit them online at alz.org/indiana.