To take part
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 21, the Alzheimer's Association will host the official Longest Day celebration at the Community Center, 233 W. Main St., featuring music, arts and crafts, food, and games.
Also that day, the Fort Wayne Duplicate Bridge Club will host a charity game. For details, go to fortwaynebridge.org or call 260-373-0422.
It was the title of a book and movie about the invasion of Normandy during World War II. It also refers to the summer solstice, June 21.
But the longest day of the year, June 21, is also a day set aside by the Alzheimer's Association to help fight Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia that strike millions of Americans.
Leah Shattuck, the association's communications director, said the day came about as a way to honor family caregivers, for whom long days come with the territory.
“Caregivers of those with dementia of some kind often neglect their own health,” Shattuck said. “We find that the stress levels are much higher than we'd like to see. People can spend fewer hours at work, and the financial burdens are considerable.
“But we also want to let others know that there are ways that they can show they care and help these families,” she said. Participants are invited to invent their own challenge, then sign up individually or as part of a team to raise money on or before the 21st for local support and research, perhaps in memory of an Alzheimer's patient. “You can pick something that a loved one enjoyed doing,” Shattuck said.
An impressive example is the Second Annual Anne Kostoff Memorial Softball Game at 7 p.m. June 20 at the University of Saint Francis. A Fort Wayne Boy Scout, Jonathan Thomas, worked with his scout troop to organize the event last year in honor of his grandmother.
The Longest Day is part of Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness Month, which also features other events throughout the region.
The challenges of Alzheimer's and other kinds of dementia are still growing, Shattuck said. According to the association, more than 5 million Americans have the disease; that number is projected to increase to 16 million by 2050.
In Indiana, 2,204 people died from Alzheimer's in 2014, making it the state's sixth-leading cause of death.
This month's efforts are a prelude the organization's biggest annual event – the Walk to End Alzheimer's, Oct. 7 at Parkview Field.
“The money received does help our local families,” Shattuck said. “The money goes for research, and caregiving – education programs, support groups, our 24/7 hotline and care consultation for families.”
The effort to find a cure for Alzheimer's has made significant strides, Shattuck said, including important research being done in Indianapolis. The Alzheimer's Association offers advice on how to recognize the disease and how to minimize your risk of developing it at its alz.org website.
“There's not anything that we can say, 'Eat this, or do this, and you won't get Alzheimer's,' ” Shattuck said. But “we want to let our people know that there is hope, and that we are going in the right direction.”