by Eric A Thomas
Photos/Special to The Source
More than 6 million people are living with Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80% of all dementia cases. It kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined, and it is predicted that it will cost the nation $355 billion in 2021 alone. A Scott County group is hoping to draw attention to the fight against this deadly disease that affects an estimated 45% of American seniors 85 and older.
On Saturday, September 11, Winchester will hold a Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Due to COVID-19, last year’s nationwide events were canceled so this will be the second time they have organized a walk in Winchester. The event runs from 8 until 11 a.m. and the check-in tent is downtown in Douglas Park. Participants can come and go at their leisure. There is no entry fee required but donations are welcome. People can sign up their own team or join an existing team. T-shirts are available for teams through the website alz.org/walk for a donation of $100. Only requirement for pre-registration is if the participant wants a t-shirt.
“I have participated for three years in the walk held in Jacksonville and decided to try the event in Winchester in 2020,” comments Pam Hembrough. “The response was fantastic! Lots of local people participated and that convinced me to continue on an annual basis.” This event is under the umbrella of the Jacksonville Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Winchester walkers will have a choice as to the length of walk. Participants can walk the perimeter of the square and do a little window shopping or head down South Main Street and come up Mechanic Street. All participants are encouraged to go at their own pace and enjoy themselves. Many will hang out downtown afterwards and Hembrough encourages that.
In addition to the walk, Hembrough will once again include the flower sale which is unique to the Winchester event. In conjunction with Tipsord’s Turf & Landscape in Winchester, they sell 8-inch white and purple mums as well as purple asters. These will be available for purchase from August 8 to August 31. The prices will be set closer to those dates, and everyone must pay in advance. The flowers will decorate Douglas Park. Purple is the color of support for Alzheimer’s, and some would say it stands for clarity of mind and wisdom. The color purple is a blend of blue, which stands for calm stability, and red, which represents passionate energy. These qualities are needed as a caregiver and are embraced by advocates as they do their best to be energetic and passionate in the pursuit of a cure for Alzheimer’s. The color white is used to represent a future survivor. “We are always looking for the white Alzheimer’s flower. Currently, there are no survivors for Alzheimer’s is a fatal disease,” she adds. The proceeds from the flower sales will be forwarded to the Chicago Alzheimer’s Association main office and the purchased flowers may be picked up on the square after 11 on the morning of the September 11 event.
The connection to this disease is a very personal one for Hembrough. Her parents, Dick and Ethel Shive of Winchester, both had this ugly disease and Hembrough served as their caregiver for 14 years. “Navigating the Alzheimer’s world was tough, and this disease isn’t going away anytime soon. I want to do everything I can to ease the stigma and uncomfortableness of this disease. I want to help other caregivers through the process,” says Hembrough.
Hembrough hopes to do her part to help fund research to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. Her mother was diagnosed in 2003 and that was the last time there was a pharmaceutical discovery to help patients fight this horrible disease until June 2021. “Eighteen years! We can and should do better,” she concludes.
Pam Hembrough currently serves as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group facilitator. The focus of the local group is to help caregivers take care of themselves, find out about resources, learn about Alzheimer’s and what to expect, prepare for the future, and come to a place where they can share their frustrations and fears. The Walk to End Alzheimer’s funds training events, educational events, and provides a 24/7 helpline for anyone needing someone to listen and offer resources. The helpline can be reached at 1-800-272-3900. Hembrough’s Alzheimer’s support group meets at 9 a.m. on the third Saturday of every month at the Winchester United Methodist Church, located at 20 N. Walnut St. The meeting is open to all dementia caregivers in the surrounding area and all meetings are confidential. Currently, there are 11 million Americans providing unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.