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Winter Solstice event to shine a light on Alzheimer’s, dementia

Special to the Journal

MARQUETTE — As COVID-19 continues to spike in Michigan leaving residents more isolated and distressed, the Alzheimer’s Association Michigan Chapter is hosting a special luminary lighting on the longest night of the year — the winter solstice — to honor all those impacted by Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The Winter Solstice Virtual Luminary Lighting event takes place at 6-6:30 p.m. Monday on Zoom.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted all of us, especially those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia and their caregivers,” said Shenise Foote, Alzheimer’s Association development manager. “This event will bring together friends and strangers from across the state and region to join together to outshine the darkness of Alzheimer’s and all other dementia.”

Participants are asked to bring their own luminary or light of hope to the event, which marks the halfway point to the The Longest Day® fundraising event on the summer solstice in June.

“Michiganders don’t need to wait until June to honor their loved ones,” Foote said. “Anyone can join us on the winter solstice to show support and fight the darkness of this devastating disease.”

A recent Alzheimer’s Association analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data over the past five years on “excess deaths” shows the number of Alzheimer’s and dementia deaths in Michigan through the end of October represents a 17.6 percent increase above average. In the analysis, Michigan had 1,187 deaths above average.

Nationwide, there have been at least 34,851 more deaths due to Alzheimer’s or another dementia than would be expected normally. The number of deaths above average in this disease category far exceeds all categories reported by the CDC.

Since May, the Alzheimer’s Association has been calling for long-term care policy recommendations, including the need for rapid-turnaround testing and prioritization testing to end social isolation and ensure COVID-19 does not spread in these settings and end social isolation.

“This recent analysis indicates that the true burden of the COVID-19 pandemic is significantly larger than the confirmed COVID-19 deaths, especially for individuals living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia and their caregivers,” said Jennifer Lepard, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association Michigan Chapter. “It’s more important than ever that we do all we can to help support them on this incredibly challenging journey.”

The Alzheimer’s Association offers a wide array of education programs, support groups, care consultations and social engagement programs. It also is accessible via its 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.

To register for the Winter Solstice Virtual Luminary Lighting event, visit bit.ly/TLDWinterSolstice today. For more information, visit alz.org/gmc.

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