Rachel’s Story

Ever since I was little, I have always been very interested in science. As I grew up, that interest in science transformed into a passion for the brain. One day, I watched a documentary about Alzheimer’s Disease, and I was fascinated. I began searching the web, reading literature articles, and watching videos about the disease. After learning about the devastation this disease is capable of, I wanted to help in any way I could. I decided to join a research lab at my school, which investigates the immunological component of Alzheimer’s Disease. I also began volunteering at a local dementia care center. As time progressed, these experiences validated my passion for finding a cure and ultimately inspired me to pursue medical school to become a neurologist where I will be able to research the disease and help treat those affected by it.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I could not work in the research lab or volunteer at the dementia care center. So, I started looking for different ways to make a difference. I had heard about the Alzheimer’s Association and the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which led me to do research. I contacted Gina Henrickson, the manager of The Longest Day (one of the Association’s largest fundraising events), and the rest is history. I was graciously welcomed into the Association and decided to join the volunteer recruitment committee.

After I got to know the other committee members, I realized most of them had someone in their family who has been affected by the disease. Although I have never experienced Alzheimer’s disease within my own family, I still felt a personal connection with their stories. It is truly inspiring to be surrounded by others that share my passion for helping those affected with dementia.

Now I call on you! If you are passionate about the disease and want to make a difference, this is the opportunity you have been waiting for! Feel free to contact me if you are interested in learning more about the resources the Association offers, opportunities for volunteerism, info about The Longest Day fundraiser, or anything else!

By: Rachel Frakes

Elsie’s Journey

To honor Elsie, who battled Alzheimer’s, her daughter Lisa Stover started Presto Real Estate. Alongside Elsie, Lisa navigated the process of transitioning a loved one, and experienced first hand the challenges that often arise in the relocation process. Lisa created a system to help families through this challenging journey, now and in the future. 

My story is like so many others, yet so uniquely mine. Like all diseases, you fight it at first, rejecting the diagnosis and believing it will be different for you and your family. Unlike many families, we did not wait too long before finding our mom a safer place to live. The worries of coffee pots and irons staying left on were enough incentive for us to convince her that a move was a good idea. Of course, there was resistance and accusations that we were forcing her to do something against her will. It was true .. we were. Luckily for us, her first stop to supportive living brought joy, activities, and folks to socialize with that were just like her. As we set up her new apartment with familiar pictures and items from home, she acted like a high school graduate going off to college and getting her place for the first time. We felt blessed and relieved that we didn’t have to worry anymore. This lasted 2+ years, and the disease remained status quo.

Overnight, something changed. The staff and doctors were not surprised. They all told us, “this is how the disease goes.” It is unpredictable but follows a relatively predictable pattern. Here we were, in a new place. After a hospital stay and a tumultuous few days in rehab/observation, we knew she was not going back to her apartment. I slept in a chair by her bed because I was the only one she would trust. My brother stepped in for my shower and sleep breaks, but this was not a long-term plan. With no money left to afford a more aesthetically pleasing environment and a private room, skilled nursing was going to be her new home. Again, once she stabilized and we set up her half of the room, she was okay – not great. Being completely ambulatory at this point, she was in a secure unit which meant locked in, and she knew it.

As the daughter of a strong-willed woman, nothing can stir more guilt than locking your mom up. There were days she would yell at me and days she did not want to see me at all. I would do her laundry every week; I would convince myself that this would preserve the color and keep her clothes looking their best. It was guilt, and I know now that it was okay. We all have to cope in our way with this thing.

Elsie lived there for over six years. She received loving care from nurses and CNA’s who will forever be my angels! They did things that I couldn’t. They understood the world she lived in, and they helped me come and go with confidence that she was in good hands. It was far from perfect, and I wasn’t always pleased with the management. Life is just like that… I am not always pleased about many things. I learned so much through the years of Alzheimer’s. I learned how to accept and how to be more patient with others and myself. I learned how to be grateful for small things and that there are angels among us.

On August 28, 2020, Elsie went home to be with Jesus. We lost her during the pandemic (not to COVID-19), but most certainly because of it. I believe her will left her as she could not see or hear her caregivers any longer. FaceTime was not a good replacement for our visits, and she never really connected with us again. We were again blessed that when she went on Hospice because there were no cases in her wing. We were able to be with her. The morning she left was peaceful and one of the most sacred days of my life. She held me on the day I came into this world, and I was privileged to hold her on the day she left.

Running Lake Michigan: 1,100+ Miles for Alzheimer’s

Lee Thornquist is on a mission to honor his grandmother’s legacy and help support the more than five million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease. Lee – a self-proclaimed ultra runner, adventurer and fundraiser – will be running around the perimeter of Lake Michigan from March 14 through April 18, 2021. The run will be a total of 1,100+ miles in 36 days, and Lee will run an average of 31 miles a day with no days off. His goal is to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter in honor of his grandmother who passed away in September of 2020.

Lee’s grandmother, Harriet, was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment in 2007 when Lee was only thirteen years old. Lee noticed small changes such as full bags of food being thrown away and cleaning things that weren’t dirty. As time passed, Harriet began to forget names, and the loving personality of his grandmother began to change. Harriet passed away in September of 2020 after living with Alzheimer’s for more than 13 years. Lee emphasizes that although his grandmother was living with this devastating disease, she was still able to teach him and his family about unconditional love, courage, and the fragility of life.

With more than 10 ultramarathons under his belt, Lee is definitely no stranger to the runner lifestyle. Despite having an abundance of experience with ultrarunning, Lee claims his journey around Lake Michigan is “by far his most ambitious project yet.” His run around Lake Michigan will begin on the lakefront path in Chicago and will continue north into Wisconsin and into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. His course will then take him across the Mackinac Bridge and south through Michigan, Indiana, and finally back to the original starting point in Chicago.

During the run, Lee will be living in an RV with one other person who will act as the RV driver and personal support system along the way. Lee says the RV will “act as a home, kitchen, shower and much more” throughout his journey.

Lee’s fundraising goal for his run around Lake Michigan is $25,000, and every donation will benefit the Alzheimer’s Association for the advancement of Alzheimer’s care, support and research.

Learn more about Lee and his Running Lake Michigan mission here. You can also follow Lee’s journey on Instagram and YouTube