Getting Involved in Alzheimer's Efforts Pays Big Dividends
As usual this time of year, I’m starting to gear up for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s. I’ve been involved in this event since 2007, when I participated a month after Mom died. I also participated on the planning committee for the walk in my area. I’ve found that there have numerous positive outcomes – both intended as well as those not anticipated – by participating in this type of event. And while I have focused on the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, you can substitute any form of participation/volunteer effort for a health-related group that you believe in.
So back to those benefits. Let me describe them for you:
1. A place to pay tribute – and, in my case, to memorialize – a loved one. Participating in this type of event gives you a focused opportunity to honor your loved one. I see so many people at the walk who have loved ones who have dementia. In many cases, the people who are struggling with this condition. In my case, it also gave our family a place for relatives and friends to make donations in Mom’s memory. Because she had not lived in this area very long and that time had been spent in a nursing home, our family did not plan a memorial service since so few people in the area knew her. Instead, we held a family memorial a year later when we spread her ashes. Yet people who did know her who lived far away really wanted to do something, so my participation in the walk gave them an outlet to show their support. In fact, people were so supportive that I ended up raising over $1,500 dollars for a cause that Mom would have appreciated and endorsed.
2. A feeling of doing something positive. I’ve seen several family members and friends battle dementia. And it’s quite possible that I may have a propensity for this disease when I get older since it seems to strike on my mom’s side of the family. Therefore, I want to do everything I can to make a difference both for myself and for others who have or may face this disease. Obviously, one positive aspect is the fund-raising part of participating in the walk, with the proceeds going to outreach, services and research. There’s also the aspect of walking – just putting one foot in front of the other , which in itself is very good exercise for the brain.
3. A sense of community. One of the things I appreciate about participating in this type of event is the sense of camaraderie that develops. It started when I walked that first year with my friend, Mara, whose mother had dementia. The following years, more and more friends who had family members touched by this disease started wanting to join our efforts so I started forming a team. We have a good time each year, bringing our dogs for the walk and hanging out in specially-designed team t-shirts. We often go to brunch after the event. It’s invigorating to be with a group of people who are willing to do their part for a specific cause.
4. A network of health professionals. This was an unexpected outcome that has proven to be really, really beneficial. For instance, because I was part of the planning committee, I heard the conversations about medical professionals who were honored for their work related to elder care and Alzheimer’s disease. That’s how I helped my father identify a primary care physician when his doctor decided to close up his practice. And when I had a potential health care crisis brewing with Dad (who does not have Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia), I knew who to contact who could put me in touch with the proper resources. If I had not been involved in the walk, I would not have known these people and would have been on own as far as helping Dad through these situations. Instead, I have a network that provides critical support when we need it.
These are all good reasons to get involved in some sort of fund-raising activity that supports organizations battling Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia. These groups can use your assistance – and your participation will pay dividends for you and your loved ones.