Walk to End Alzheimer's is just the beginning for local family

Moore County citizens participated in the 2020 Walk to End Alzheimer’s Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., organized by the Alzheimer’s Association. Citizens walked in their communities and public trails instead of large groups in designated areas due to COVID-19.

At 1 p.m., the day prior, $27,757 had been raised by Moore County citizens, and the total raised was over $28,000. The top fundraising teams were McKee Homes at $5,560 and Marge Swierz’ team, For My Husband John, at $2,070. Proceeds benefit existing research, local 24-7 care, and new research on a lifestyle-intervention study by Wake Forest.

The most unusual fundraising projects included social media and cooking experiments, sending care packages, happy hour packages, and musical concerts with zoom admission, according to general development manager, Jennifer Briand.

“They use things they’re good at to raise money, and it’s also entertaining,” Briand said.

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s today, and the cost of care is over $305 billion. The 2019 rate of unpaid care by friends and family was 545,000,000 hours at a value of $7,151,000,000. 

Pinehurst resident Marge Swierz has walked in several counties and shared her story with Congress in 2019 at the Alzheimer’s Advocacy Forum. Her husband John was diagnosed with Younger-onset Alzheimer’s in 2007 and passed in 2017. They were married 40 years and had three children.

Marge Swierz discusses her experience with Alzheimer’s Sept. 26, 2020 at her home in Pinehurst.

“We need to alert the medical community to work on early diagnosis. We check the heart and do other yearly exams, but not the brain,” said Marge, who is a registered nurse. After his diagnosis, “one doctor said, ‘There’s nothing more we can do for you. You don’t have to come back,’ and we felt abandoned.”

Marge said that neighbors stopped waving, and his golf buddies were too uncomfortable, but their children took him to play golf, and that calmed John.

Matt Swierz shares his relationship with his father as Alzheimer’s challenged their lives.

“Think about folks in the baby boomer group. They get to certain ages and get prostate exams, but they need a test to check out brain health too,” son Matt Swierz said.

“More than 5 million live with Alzheimer’s now, and by 2050 they say it will be 14 million. We aren’t prepared for that,” Marge said.

Marge Swierz proposes medical community step-up for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

To learn more about becoming a sponsor of Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Moore County, visit act.alz.org/MooreCounty or call 800-272-3900.

Feature photo: Marge Swierz and son Matt walk Sept. 26, 2020 in Walk to End Alzheimer’s in memory of John Swierz.

Article, photo, and videos by Sandhills Sentinel Journalism Intern Stephanie M. Sellers.

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