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Going Virtual: How Volunteers Continue to Fight to End Alzheimer's During COVID-19

Going Virtual: How Volunteers Continue to Fight to End Alzheimer's During COVID-19
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April 21, 2020
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We are powered by volunteers: volunteers who are passionate, inspired, and making a difference. In a world where the word “zoom” takes on a whole new meaning, our advocates, support group facilitators, community educators and event committee members have found creative ways to push their volunteerism forward virtually during the COVID-19 crisis, making an impact with their time and talent and furthering our vision of a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia.

Virtual Volunteering During COVID-19

Alzheimer’s doesn’t stop  — and neither do our volunteers. Learn how you can use your time and talent to make an impact from home.
 

Get Involved

Community Educator Spotlight

These dedicated volunteer speakers help provide education and expand the reach of Alzheimer's Association programs using prepared materials on topics related to Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

Dr. Carolina Gutierrez, a long time supporter and volunteer community educator for the Alzheimer’s Association locally in San Diego, recently presented one of the chapter’s first Spanish-language virtual programs. Just a couple of days after sharing a post about the need for more community educators with one of her global physician social media groups, the San Diego Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association received multiple inquiries from various physicians around the world wanting to help the Association’s cause.

“I am proud to say that we are in an unprecedented time of cooperation,” Dr. Guitierrez said. “We are trying to reach answers together to help caregivers and their loved ones with Alzheimer’s.”

Dr. Gutierrez isn’t alone. All across the country, dedicated volunteers are continuing important community education from their living rooms, including Dr. Claudia Guillen, a colleague of Dr. Gutierrez’s. 

In addition to virtual education programs, longtime community educator Dr. Ryen MacDonald is hosting a brand-new "Volunteer Refresher'' to help gather existing volunteers for virtual networking and a Q&A session. “There are hiccups when it comes to engaging virtually, like problems with audio, but we are rolling with the punches! I was especially grateful to share my feelings and experiences with all of the volunteers.”
 
Ryen couldn’t imagine her life without her work as a community educator. “While working toward my Ph.D. at McGill University, I studied Alzheimer’s disease and specific brain signaling pathways associated with neurodegeneration. I love that I am able to share my knowledge and help spread awareness about the resources offered by the Alzheimer’s Association. I am so grateful to have met so many dedicated, passionate, and motivated people who I truly consider family.”

 

Support Group Facilitator Spotlight

Support Group Facilitators create a safe, open environment where people share their feelings, thoughts and experiences in a combined effort to better cope with and manage the shared problems of dementia.

Lori Gordon started as an Alzheimer’s Association support group facilitator in 2018, inspired to educate others after losing her aunt to Alzheimer’s. Today, her mother is living with the disease.

Lori went above and beyond to kickstart two new support groups in Kitsap County, Washington, even participating in a podcast to advertise these groups and spread awareness of all the Association has to offer. She has been conducting support groups over the phone and is participating in her first Zoom meeting this week. “We are finding new virtual and remote ways to communicate while keeping social distance. Not knowing when this crisis will end, I am happy I can provide comfort to people in these new ways.” Her dedication is precisely why she was named as the local “Support Group Facilitator of the Year” in 2019. 

As a longtime volunteer and outstanding fundraiser, Washington state resident Janis Jasinsky gives her time in honor of her mom Grayce. “When my mom passed away due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease in 2014, I wanted to increase my contribution to the Alzheimer's Association,” Janis said. “Becoming a support group facilitator has been a deeply satisfying way to help caregivers. Best of all, it allows me to honor my mom by sharing her story to help others through real-life examples.”
 
Janis continues her volunteerism during these unprecedented times by conducting her support group virtually. “I’m so glad that we can use technology to reach caregivers in this time of social isolation."


Advocate Spotlight

Alzheimer's Association advocates make a difference in the fight to end Alzheimer's through actions that can influence public policy and spread awareness.

Michigan resident Lauren Kovach is a passionate Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimer’s Impact Movement advocate. Twenty years ago, Lauren’s life took an unexpected turn when her grandmother, the lifeblood of her family, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's at the age of 82. “When the diagnosis came, there was no question: my mom and I adjusted our lives to become full-time caregivers. We knew we needed to take steps to care for the woman who spent most of her life caring for us.”

Among her many accomplishments as an Alzheimer’s advocate, Lauren testified to the Senate Finance Committee Subcommittee on Health about her family's experience and what it means to be a full-time caregiver. “I am so thankful to my home state Senator, Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) for introducing the bipartisan Improving HOPE for Alzheimer's Act. This bill would help increase access to care planning services for all families facing this devastating disease.”

Can't stop, won’t stop! As so much of Lauren's identity is tied to her volunteer work, she recently organized a virtual Zoom call for her fellow Alzheimer’s Ambassadors. “We wanted to find a way we could still ‘get together’ in this time of social distancing after the cancellation of the Advocacy Forum in Washington. D.C. due to COVID-19.” Lauren and her fellow advocates are determined to continue to do what they can to move Alzheimer’s advocacy forward in these times of crisis. “Catching up with this extended family of advocates brought a sense of normalcy to our shared goal of making a difference in the fight to end Alzheimers by influencing public policy.”
 

The Longest Day and Walk to End Alzheimer’s Spotlight

Every year, millions of event volunteers and fundraisers make The Longest Day and Walk to End Alzheimer’s what they are today.

Nancy and Bart Westcott are getting their game on! The Longest Day co-chairs from the Northern California and Northern Nevada Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association have been making the most of “shelter-in-place” orders by hosting a virtual Monopoly challenge with a goal of raising $2,500 for the Association with the national champion receiving purple swag that celebrates The Longest Day. They invited friends and family across the nation to donate and play via email and Facebook. “We can all make a difference, even during the most challenging of times. Let the games begin!”

Herb Magley is a Walk to End Alzheimer’s volunteer who lost his wife and best friend Gail to Alzheimer’s disease. Herb volunteers for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Ohio, Texas and Oklahoma.  

A member of the Walk team “Friends Nurturing Friends,” Herb was one of the Alzheimer’s Association’s top ten walkers in 2019, raising more than $65,000. He is continuing to volunteer from home by sending colorful pop-up greeting cards to fellow volunteers and members of his support group. 

“I cannot do enough, give enough, fundraise enough. After all the Alzheimer’s Association did for my wife Gail and I in our time of need, I want to give back. The Alzheimer’s Association saved my life with counseling, education and a great support group.”

How do you volunteer in the fight to end Alzheimer’s? How are you getting creative virtually in your fundraising?

Tell us in the comments and stay tuned for more stories about those who fight to end Alzheimer’s through clinical trials and faith outreach.






 

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