Raising awareness for Alzheimer’s

Published 6:07 pm Friday, September 24, 2021

Jaclyn Bird knows the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s. Watching her grandfather cope with it has brought her face-to-face with the disease.

However, as a financial consultant at Edward Jones here in Austin, she has also seen the battle in the eyes of her customers.

Jaclyn Bird

Both of these are prime reasons why she has gotten involved with the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which will be held next Saturday at Frank Hall Park in Albert Lea.

“I unfortunately have been affected personally,” Bird said. “I see it within my clients and my grandfather has dementia. It’s the reason why I wanted to join the committee.”

The Freeborn walk, which encapsulates both Freeborn and Mower counties, will begin with check-ins at 9 a.m., with an opening ceremony to start at 10 a.m., followed by the walk.

Walkers are hoping to reach a $30,000 goal.

Bird went a step further this year by becoming Walk Committee Chair.

“I took it a step further to be on the committee because of my personal story,” Bird said. “I wanted to get the word out in Austin to get that support.”

Money raised by the walk goes toward a number of different areas. While money definitely goes toward research, it also goes toward support, including a help line, support groups, and family care consultations.

“There’s so much they can do right here,” Bird said. “Advocacy efforts. My grandparents have been together. At home, we didn’t know about all the options before going to assisted living. People need to know there is support.”

To that end, Bird said it’s also important that people realize there are different avenues of Alzheimer’s and dementia and how they affect everything surrounding those dealing with them, including health and finances.

But there is also the heredity angle, which has Bird concerned for the future and only pushes her to do more for the cause.

“Unfortunately, dementia’s biggest piece is age, but its heredity too,” Bird said. “At this point, I do it to honor (grandpa). For me, it scares me to death that my dad will get it. It’s the dignity that is taken away.”

As Bird has had to watch that deterioration herself, including the loss of memories, she also sees a ray of light in the future. She has seen the steps that could lead to one day bringing an end to the disease.

“When I got involved, they just came out with an FDA drug that slows the effects,” Bird said. “We may not be able to prevent (Alzheimer’s), but we can provide dignity to hold it off just a little bit longer.”

For more information on the walk as well as ways to donate, visit act.alz.org/freeborncounty. You can also download the Walk to End Alzheimer’s app in the iTunes and Google Play stores.