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Walk to End Alzheimer's raises awareness



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Lisa Quigley and Tera Quigley speak about their personal history with Alzheimer's on Saturday at the Walk to End Alzheimer's event at Bryan Park. Lisa Quigley lost her father to the disease in 2011, and has a mother currently battling it. Nicole Krasean Buy Photos

Last Saturday morning, Lisa Quigley and her kids, Tera and Will, bundled up against the cool morning air and walked.

A yellow flower pinwheel in her daughter’s hand represented Quigley’s mother, who’s currently living with Alzheimer’s at Autumn Hills Alzheimer’s Service Care Center in Bloomington.

Quigly was among those who participated in the 2014 Walk to End Alzheimer’s Sept. 13. in which all proceeds from the event were donated to the Alzheimer’s Association.

In her gloved hand, Quigley carried a purple pinwheel for her father, who died from the disease in 2011.

Scrawled across the petals in black Sharpie were drawn-on hearts and words of love from Lisa and her family.

“Lyle Calkins. Dad. Grandpa.”

“Anita Calkins. A.k.a. Grandma. Mom.”

Quigley said she tends to avoid events like the 2014 Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which this year was at the Bryan Park Woodlawn Shelter.

But she added it’s events like these that remind her of the support people in Bloomington can offer.

“This is the kind of thing that makes me realize there’s really people here,” she said with a smile.

Quigley said this year marks the second time her family has taken part in the walk, but she didn’t tell her mother about it. She wouldn’t remember.

“We’ve shown her the flowers before,” she said. “We showed them to her last year, and she thought they were pretty.”

For the past two years, Quigley’s mother has been at Autumn Hills, which she said serves as a middle ground for people who are independent but slowly losing functions.

The center works to help people with memory loss of any kind, not just specifically related to Alzheimer’s.

Founded in 2011, Autumn Hills was not around in time to benefit Quigley’s father.

She said her mother cared for him in their home until it became clear ?another course of action was necessary.

“It just didn’t work out anymore,” Quigley said. “He was getting pretty violent with her.”

Quigley and her family moved her father into Bell Trace, a senior living community in Bloomington.

At the time they were moving him, she said the memory unit was in the process of shutting down, so she didn’t know what his care would be like.

She said her father only lasted at Bell Trace for a couple of weeks before it was time to move on.

“He would walk out of his room, and he wouldn’t know where his room was,” Lisa said.

Quigley moved her father into two different nursing homes before he passed away in 2011, just as Autumn Hills was being built.

Then her mother started showing early signs of the disease, and Quigley moved her into Autumn Hills in 2012.

Quigley said the social environment at the center keeps her mother happy and healthy. She and her family are able to visit as frequently as they want, she said.

“They do a lot of activities where you can come and join them,” Quigley said. “They have Easter egg hunts and special meals on all the holidays where families can join them.”

Quigley said her mother has even begun to relive her younger years while at Autumn Hills.

At 86 years old, her mother has had two boyfriends while at the center, and she often tells Lisa she could have a new father.

“One guy – the one that was going to be my new dad – he had a roommate who really liked her, and they had to separate the men because they were fighting over her,” Quigley said, laughing. “So they’re no longer roommates.”

Her mother’s spirit is something Quigley said she hopes to have when she’s older.

“If it happens to me, I want to be like her,” she said. “I want to have boyfriends and stuff.”

***

Every 67 seconds, a person in the United States is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

The group sponsors the walk in Bloomington and many other cities across the nation.

With more than five million people currently living with the disease and 500,000 people dying from it each year, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.

Lauren Lay, the development specialist for the walk in Bloomington, was drawn to the walk for reasons similar to Quigley’s.

For three years, she watched her grandfather succumb to the disease and the toll it took on her family, specifically her mother, who worked as his caregiver.

“I think I only watched him once, and it was the most terrifying thing I’d ever done,” Lay said. “He didn’t know who I was anymore.”

Lay began volunteering with the association last year at its walk in ?Indianapolis.

The walk Saturday was the first walk she’s worked in her new position.

Lay said the information the Alzheimer’s Association provides is invaluable to any person or family whose loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Had her family known about the organization when her grandfather was alive, she said, it would have benefited them greatly.

“I have made it my mission and goal to bring that information to other people,” she said.

“We are here to help them, we are here to support them, and they need to know that they have that care for them.”

***

Quigley said she was impressed by anyone she saw carrying an orange flower at the walk.

Those who were carrying orange flowers had not known anyone who had Alzheimer’s but were there supporting the cause.

“Lucky them,” she said.

Having people in her life touched by the disease, Quigley said she is always up-to-date on the latest research in Alzheimer’s.

She receives literature from Autumn Hills, and her past involvement in Alzheimer’s Association events has landed her on an email chain.

But amid all the talk of new findings and cures, Lisa said the future is unclear for anyone, including herself.

“They’re saying that there’s going to be so many more people diagnosed by 2050,” she said. “I just keep hearing, ‘You don’t have anything to worry about because the doctors are on it.’ So I’m either one of those people, or the doctors are on it.”

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