Every summer, when the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s® season kicks off, people from diverse communities across Illinois and every walk of life join together to fight Alzheimer’s disease. Wives, husbands, sons and daughters, caregivers, friends and neighbors — anyone who has struggled against this disease is part of an extended family, and Walk is an opportunity to meet, catch up, and give each other the support everyone who has had to face dementia needs.
Sadly, the 2016 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, released earlier this year by the Alzheimer’s Association®, shows that this family continues to grow all too rapidly: in 2015, the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s increased by more than 100,000 and now exceeds 5.4 million; in Illinois alone, at least 10,000 more families must now cope with this terrible disease.
While the Walk event itself may only take place during several hours on a single day, the sense of empowerment and support that team members provide each other lasts all year. This can mean everything to someone struggling to balance their work, family life and caregiving responsibilities.
Cheryl Levin-Folio is one of hundreds of people who will be walking in the North Shore Walk to End Alzheimer’s:
“Michael and I first met years ago as colleagues, and I knew then that he was a man of strength, great vision and unwavering determination. Unfortunately, six months after our wedding, Michael, just 56-years-old, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. Only four percent of Alzheimer’s patients are younger than 65. It was like someone pulled the rug out from under us. Our fairy tale changed forever.
Prior to his illness, Michael, a former executive with Home Depot and the founding member of Corporate Property Dispositions, had a philosophy that resonated in both his professional and personal lives. He’s always believed that when something bad happens, you take one and one day only to be depressed, angry, whatever. And then, after that 24-hour period, you get to work and lay out your strategy in order to tackle the issue. And that’s what we did! Along with family, friends, and medical professionals, we fight the disease and learn how to live with it in a way that preserves our day-to-day life. This attitude increases our quality of life and overall environment on a daily basis.
Perseverance fuels our determination to keep moving. In the early days, after our initial shock, we found a glut of information about the end stages of the disease, planning for the future, and medical treatment. But we found nothing about early-onset Alzheimer’s and we desperately needed guidance on how to live as well as possible for as long as possible. Since we couldn’t find a plan of action we created our own, one that would allow us to achieve both of our needs and allow Michael to be successful — Michael’s as the patient and mine as the primary caregiver.
Our story and our lives are always changing from one day to the other. Our sincere hope is that we inspire, encourage, and most of all, remind you that you and your loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s are never alone in your fight.”
Make it Better is a sponsor of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, North Shore held on Saturday, Sept. 17 in Glenview at Gallery Park. By participating in a Walk to End Alzheimer’s, you will be supporting Alzheimer’s Association programs that provide care and support to people right here in Illinois and funding cutting edge research aimed at creating “a world without Alzheimer’s®.” To find the Walk nearest to you and learn about creating, joining or supporting a team, visit alz.org/walk.