News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Grass roots effort to tackle Alzheimer's in Sisters

More than 50 attended the first of what organizers say will be a continuing series of events in Sisters to grow awareness of and develop strategies to tackle the increasing devastation of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The kick-off event took place June 23 at the Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District Community Hall with a presentation: “10 Warning Signs of Dementia” and was followed by four “Sis” talks that focused on the importance of social engagement, staying physical, balanced nutrition, and keeping your brain engaged.

“Sis” talks is the term organizers came up with as a spin-off of TED Talks, a highly successful, international format of presenting complex and lengthy subject matter in a condensed, engaging style.

The event, originated by Rotary Club of Sisters in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Association, had local representatives from Partners In Care, Council on Aging, STARS, and Martin & Richards, PLLC attorneys specializing in estate planning and guardianships, and the Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District, who had a nurse taking blood pressure for attendees.

Speakers included Ashlee Francis, owner of SweatPNW in Sisters; Joelle Blanchard, community outreach and education manager with Partners In Care; Ken Scholz, PhD, a volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Association; and Debbi McCune, community educator for the Alzheimer’s Association.

McCune, a Sisters realtor and advocate for Alzheimer’s care, knows about the disease intimately. Her husband was diagnosed 17 years ago and she’s been his primary caregiver for eight. Facilitating the event, she asked the audience how many were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and six hands went up.

When asked how many in the room cared for an Alzheimer’s family member or loved one, another 20 hands were raised. And asking how many present had a family member or loved one with the disease, all remaining hands shot up.

The appreciative attendees asked that the band of sponsors do more to support Alzheimer’s in Sisters, and they responded with a commitment for more community events and hopes for more professional caregiving in the community.

The Alzheimer’s Association has a one-person chapter in Bend, but that staffer has been called to Portland, leaving the branch for all of Deschutes County temporarily void.

“We’re going to have to do this largely by our own effort,” said Bill Kelly, Rotary Club president, referring to the grassroots effort getting underway among advocates in Sisters Country.

Sandy Reilly of Sisters is one such advocate. His older sister, Mary, is an Alzheimer’s victim and he has immersed himself in learning about the disease and trying, like McCune, to organize a concerted, long-term approach to combatting dementia and Alzheimer’s on a local basis.

Reilly and Tate Metcalf, owner of Sisters Athletic Club, are staging a 50-kilometer spinathon at the Club on July 22. Using the Club’s spin cycles, teams of four, or in Reilly’s case, a team of one, will spin for 50K as a fundraiser, with proceeds going to the start of a pool of money that can be distributed into Sisters in support of tackling the problem.

Club members are gearing up. To support a team or spinner, call or text 925-980-0709.


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