The advent of the pandemic in early 2020 led to a year of unprecedented challenges for us all. Many lost loved ones to COVID-19, or faced the demands of caring for those recovering from the virus. Others faced economic hardship with the loss of jobs, income and more. We were forced to change the way we live, work, learn and connect.
But despite the pandemic, one thing did not change: our commitment to serving those affected by Alzheimer’s, their families and caregivers.
Providing critical information and support to people living with Alzheimer’s, their families and caregivers demanded rapid and effective change in our method of program delivery. We quickly transitioned our education programs, support groups and care consultations to phone and online delivery so that we could safely provide these vital services to our community.
As COVID-19 revealed significant healthcare disparities experienced by our diverse and underserved communities, we deepened our commitment to addressing those inequities. Through collaborations with partners like the Veterans Administration and George Washington University, we hosted webinars to hold frank discussions identifying the needs of those managing the dual challenges of dementia caregiving and COVID-19 and solutions to address those needs. We expanded inclusive programming, including the launch of new Spanish-language support groups and expanded outreach to the Black and LGBTQ communities.
While the pandemic caused us to cancel our annual Advocacy Forum in DC, we remained tireless in our policy work. We developed both federal and state policy recommendations on testing, reporting, surge activation, and support to address the ensuing COVD-19 crisis in long-term and community-based care settings.
As we worked diligently to drive these critical issues in our communities, we also worked quickly behind the scenes to transition the delivery of key initiatives and events.
For the first time ever, the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) was hosted in a completely virtual format offered free of charge – resulting in the largest AAIC ever, with over 33,000 participants from 160+ countries. Exciting research on blood tests and the impact of flu and pneumonia vaccines were just two of the many new findings reported at the conference. The Association also announced a new study to globally track and understand the long-term impact of exposure to the novel coronavirus on the brain.
AAIC wasn’t the only re-imagined event. In 2020, Walk to End Alzheimer’s was everywhere! To ensure the safety of our participants, the Association invited people to walk safely in their community, with online guidance and programming provided throughout the Walk season. I’m delighted to share that our 3,600+ walkers raised over $1 million!
In addition to Walk, participants in The Longest Day, our second signature event, raised over $200,000 doing activities such as biking, knitting, exercising – even building Legos – to increase awareness and funds to support our mission. And while our annual gala, the Brain Ball, was postponed not once, but twice, our dedicated committee and sponsors remained energized as we moved the event to April 30, 2021.
All of the transitions and successes noted above would not have been possible without people like you. As we move into 2021, your support is more important than ever. I encourage you to join us in one or more of the following ways:
- Volunteer. From leading support groups and delivering education programs and community presentations to planning and implementing special events, your time and expertise is needed. Learn more about ways you can volunteer.
- Advocate. Make your voice heard! Sign up to learn about opportunities to advocate on the state and federal levels, including our Virginia Virtual Advocacy Day on Jan. 21 (information on our Maryland and D.C. Advocacy Days will be announced soon). Our annual Advocacy Forum will be held virtually this year, with a New Congress Advocacy Kickoff the evening of Jan. 21.
- Participate. Whether your interest lies with a black-tie affair or a game of flag football, we have a fundraising event for you! Sign up for The Longest Day, Walk to End Alzheimer’s, or RivALZ. Become a sponsor or purchase tickets to the Brain Ball. Your support helps us to increase awareness about Alzheimer’s and raise funds to support the Association’s care, support and research efforts.
- Stay informed. Sign up for the Chapter’s weekly e-newsletter. Follow the Chapter on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Participate in one or more of our upcoming education programs. Invite your family, friends and colleagues to connect with us, too.
As we look forward with hope to the year ahead, I want to take a moment to thank each of you – our volunteers, advocates, partners, event participants, and donors – for your commitment and dedication during these trying times. My deepest gratitude for your continued support.
Chapter President and CEO
Alzheimer's Association National Capital Area Chapter