Out of the Shadows, Into the Light

September 2021

by brooke wagner | photo courtesy of Alzheimer’s Association

"The living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them," wrote author Czeslaw Milosz. Given the staggering facts surrounding Alzheimer's disease, all of humanity owes a huge debt to those living with dementia, people whose stories are being erased by this devastating disease. The statistics are sobering: 1 in 3 adults die with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia. It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's, a number expected to double by 2050. As these numbers grow, so will the number of caregivers needed to provide compassionate care to meet the most basic needs of their loved ones. A hallmark of the disease is an unpredictable progression, leaving families to navigate the many challenges that lay ahead.  

One organization bringing help and hope to those living with dementia and their families is the Alzheimer's Association, founded in 1980 by Jerome Stone after his wife was diagnosed with the disease. Stone quickly realized that resources were limited and set out to unite caregivers, support those living with dementia, and raise money for research into treatments and, one day, a cure. The Alzheimer’s Association makes it their mission to shine a spotlight on a heavily stigmatized disease that has long been pushed into the shadows, leaving all those affected to suffer in solitude and silence.

"The living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them," wrote author Czeslaw Milosz. Given the staggering facts surrounding Alzheimer's disease, all of humanity owes a huge debt to those living with dementia, people whose stories are being erased by this devastating disease. The statistics are sobering: 1 in 3 adults die with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia. It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's, a number expected to double by 2050. As these numbers grow, so will the number of caregivers needed to provide compassionate care to meet the most basic needs of their loved ones. A hallmark of the disease is an unpredictable progression, leaving families to navigate the many challenges that lay ahead.  

One organization bringing help and hope to those living with dementia and their families is the Alzheimer's Association, founded in 1980 by Jerome Stone after his wife was diagnosed with the disease. Stone quickly realized that resources were limited and set out to unite caregivers, support those living with dementia, and raise money for research into treatments and, one day, a cure. The Alzheimer’s Association makes it their mission to shine a spotlight on a heavily stigmatized disease that has long been pushed into the shadows, leaving all those affected to suffer in solitude and silence.

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s helps bring Alzheimer’s and dementia out of the shadows and into the light. The world’s largest fundraiser for Alzheimer’s and dementia care, support, and research, Walks take place annually in over 600 communities worldwide. Even during the pandemic, the Alzheimer’s Association continued to move its mission forward, stating, “Alzheimer’s doesn’t stop and neither do we.” This year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s will again be a community gathering planned with the health and safety of participants and volunteers as top priorities. There is no fee to register for the Walk, keeping the focus on each participant's fundraising efforts. Donations are easy to obtain online, with the Alzheimer's Association offering tips and coaching every step of the way to optimize each participant’s engagement.  

For many people who take part, the Walk is intensely meaningful, made even more so by the “Promise Garden” - an individualized, hands-on activity where walkers raise a brightly colored pinwheel flower representing their promise to “honor, care, and fight for those living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia and their caregivers.” The flowers, often decorated with a hand-written message or name, depict different meanings with colors such as blue (someone living with Alzheimer’s), purple (signifying having lost someone to dementia), yellow (currently giving care to someone with dementia), or orange (general support for the cause). Together, these colors make up a beautiful garden of remembrance and commitment to raising funds and awareness for a breakthrough in the fight against Alzheimer’s and all other dementia. 


Billings, MT “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” Details:  

  • Date: September 19, 2021 
  • When: Registration at 1:00 pm. Opening ceremony at 2:30. Walk begins at 3:00 pm.  
  • Where: Rocky Mountain College 
  • Route length: 1 or 2 miles 
  • To register: bit.ly/walkblgs 
  • Contact person: Lisa Day | 406.598.0213 | lday@alz.org 

Alzheimer’s Association 

The Alzheimer’s Association offers free education, counseling, support groups, and a 24-hour Helpline. Contributions also advance research to prevent, treat and eventually conquer this disease. For information, call the 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900 or visit www.alz.org. 

Originally printed in the September 2021 issue of Simply Local Magazine

Never miss an issue, check out SLM's digital editions here!  

related articles: