Deerfield family honors loved ones by walking for Alzheimer's cause
DEERFIELD — A multi-generational effort is underway to remember family members who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.
Along with fellow members of the team “Angels Take Action,” Julie Rumfelt, her daughter and granddaughter are participating in the Central New Hampshire Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which is Sept. 28 at 10 a.m. in Arms Park, Manchester.
As of last week, Rumsfeld said Angels Take Action raised more than $3,000 for the cause.
For the past five years, Rumfelt, 43, said she’s been walking to help others cope with Alzheimer’s after she watched three members of her family, two sisters and a mother, suffer from the disease or from a similar illness.
Last year, Rumfelt said her granddaughter Lexi Horton, now 7, of Concord, walked with her and is excited to be part of the effort for a second year.
“It helps families that are going through it,” Rumfelt said, adding her sister Carol Fonteneau, then 59, died after losing the ability to talk, walk, eat and remember due to Alzhemier’s two years ago.
“People aren’t aware of the disease — people who aren’t affected,” Rumsfeld said, adding her daughter Leandra, 20, decided to switch majors — from pharmacy to nursing — as a result of helping treat her aunt Carol.
Leandra said she made the decision after seeing the nurses care for her aunt.
“I want to do that,” Leandra said, adding she has two more years of school before starting as a nurse.
“It’s frightening to think that my mother or I could get Alzheimer’s,” Leandra said. “You can’t let that stop you from living life.”
Rumsfeld said 10 years ago, her sister, Tricia, died at age 45, due to early onset Alzheimer’s while her mother died 26 years ago, at age 62, from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Rumsfeld said these diseases are hard on everyone.“You’re used to that person and they become someone different,” Rumsfeld said, adding Alzheimer’s leaves people confused, frustrated and scared.
“You don’t have any control over it,” Rumsfeld said. As a result, she’s learned to focus her efforts on helping others as a licensed nursing assistant, as co-facilitator of the Alzheimer’s support group in Auburn and through the Angels team.
“You make the best of every day to help people,” Rumsfeld said, adding she’s especially proud to help put together information for families affected by Alzheimer’s.
Rumsfeld said the information, which includes suggestions about living wills, advocate options, family care, home care and other topics, is becoming more available in doctor’s offices and medical centers. She added it’s essential for families to be prepared.
“People think this is something that comes with age,” Rumsfeld said, adding Alzheimer’s can strike people in their 30s or 40s.
“So far, we’ve had a great response to this information,” Rumsfeld said, adding people can learn more by calling the Visiting Angels office at 483-8999. For more information, visit http://act.alz.org.
Similar events to raise funds and awareness about Alzheimer’s were held in Keene Sunday and are scheduled in Portsmouth Sept. 29.