Committed to the Fight: Gray’s Battle Against Alzheimer’s
Worldwide more than 50 million people are living with Alzheimer’s, including more than 5 million Americans. Perhaps the most troubling part of these statistics is that the numbers are not slowing. Estimates predict that, by the year 2050, nearly 14 million people age 65 and older will be living with Alzheimer’s, compared to the current 5.8 million currently battling this form of dementia.
But Alzheimer’s isn’t just memory loss. The relentless disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. According to Alz.org, an organization dedicated to the fight against the disease, the number of official deaths from Alzheimer’s disease rose 146% between 2000 and 2018.
June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month – an opportunity to raise awareness of the disease and funds for research for the fight against Alzheimer’s.
For anyone who has come face-to-face with this awful disease, you quickly understand that the fight is very personal.
“My passion for finding a cure to Alzheimer’s is because of a man I met as a child,” says Jeanne Kelly, assistant project manager at Gray. “This man was like a second Grandpa to me, and it pained to watch him go from being a God-fearing avid farmer to someone who required dependency to complete normal daily tasks.”
“My Grandpa was my best friend. When he started exhibiting symptoms, we had no idea what we were in for with the fight,” explained April Spellman, people & culture manager at Gray Solutions. “I watched Alzheimer’s disease take over my best friend, the man that had been such a great father, grandfather, friend, and brother. The disease made him unrecognizable both mentally and physically.”
Alzheimer’s does not fight fair; it moves in, unannounced, and begins to take ground rapidly. Sometimes the disease progresses before anyone is even made aware.
“I am so passionate about this fight, because someday I hope no family will ever have to go through this,” says Spellman.
Need for Awareness
“It took two years to obtain my mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis after maintaining notes about her behavior,” explains Rita Clark, application support administrator at Gray. “I discussed it with her primary care doctor who simply thought the behavior was due to grieving the loss of my daddy.”
Alz.org notes that awareness of Alzheimer’s is a major barrier to progress in the fight against the disease. Recent numbers show that 50% of primary care physicians believe the medical profession is not ready for the growing number of people with Alzheimer’s. Part of that is certainly due to infrastructure and resources, but that is also partly due to lack of awareness.
“I was clueless about Alzheimer’s when we received the diagnosis! I had no idea about the toll the disease would take or the resources available to my family,” says Spellman.
For years, Alzheimer’s has lurked in the background of our society quietly devastating millions of families every single year while not receiving the same attention as other diseases. Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month is working to change that. Not only is the hope to raise funds, but also to raise the public’s perception of the seriousness of Alzheimer’s.
Together We Can Make a Difference
Fighting a disease like Alzheimer’s can seem insurmountable, but it is a battle that truly must be fought as a family. Gray, at its core, is a family. And this battle is one that is close to Gray’s heart. In fact, Gray’s co-founder and the Gray Family matriarch Lois Howard Gray lost her courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease on March 19, 2012.
Since 2006, Gray has participated annually in the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s, an event that raises awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s patient care, support, and research. Additionally, the company has joined efforts on “The Longest Day,” and mindfully raises awareness year-round. It’s a battle that the Gray Family is committed to fighting together.
“I knew that the Gray Family would be supportive of my affiliation of the Alzheimer’s Association. They have allowed me the opportunity to use the Gray name for the walk team and provided other areas to assist in fundraising and support throughout the years,” says Clark. When Clark’s mother was diagnosed in 2006, the Gray Family rallied behind her and began annually participating in the walk.
“When I realized there were so many team members affected by Alzheimer’s disease and that we all had such a passion for the fight, I knew something great was coming. I have been blessed with having a team of people that are all in this with me,” says Spellman.
“When my father passed away from dementia, Gray was there. To this day, several years later, I have a plant in my yard that blooms every year – it was from Gray, says Robert Lownes, manager, BIM/VDC at Gray It is a reminder of my father’s legacy and that Gray is a great company.”
“The support of the Gray Family has been something that I cannot really put into words, and for which I am forever grateful,” explains Spellman.
This year’s walk may be very different than ever before due to the current climate of our world. Instead of gathering physically as a family like we usually do, we may gather virtually. People can gather from around the world, hit their treadmills, neighborhoods, tracks, stairways, or wherever they can, tune in through their phones and iPads, and walk it out for a cause.
“Through virtual means, there are opportunities that a traditional walk does not have. We would be able to use various platforms to reach people outside of our immediate area. Let’s reach everyone we can,” says Lownes.
While it might not be the best-case scenario, people are just as excited and hopeful that this year could be the year that makes a real difference in the fight against Alzheimer’s!
“Someone is going to be a part of the medical team that finds the cure, someone is going to be the first survivor, and someone is going to be the donator that puts us one step closer. Each of us are important in our roles of fighting the fight,” says Kelly.
For more information on the disease and other ways to become involved, visit www.alz.org.
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