The Walk to End Alzheimer’s was a success thanks to safeguards, ingenuity, and a re-tooled approach.
The annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s looked quite a bit different this year, due to limitations surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. But that didn’t change Spectrum Retirement Communities’ desire to participate in the walk, helping the Alzheimer’s Association raise crucial funds in support of their number-one goal: “A world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia.” On September 19, 2020, Team Spectrum — comprised of small, socially distant groups of team members, residents, residents’ families, and corporate team members — raised more than $24,000 for the cause by walking independently in their own neighborhoods.
“Every day, we see the impact Alzheimer’s disease has on our residents, their loved ones, and our team members,” says William Swearingen, Spectrum Retirement’s senior vice president of marketing and sales. “With forty-eight communities across ten states, we work tirelessly to change the perception of what life can be for those facing the challenges the disease presents. Like the Alzheimer’s Association, we hope for a cure.”
An estimated 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s this year, and Swearingen says, “it’s too large of a number to ignore.” Sponsoring The Walk to End Alzheimer’s was a priority for Spectrum Retirement, even with the physical and financial challenges of the pandemic. In fact, adds Swearingen, participating in the event was even more important for Team Spectrum in the time of COVID. “The pandemic has impacted us all, so we’re not going to give up our commitment to a disease that impacts so many lives. We’re going to band together. We wish we could have all walked together, but we were thrilled with this year’s setup, for the ability of the walk to be ‘everywhere.’ It allowed our residents, their families, our team members, and our community at large to support the cause and participate alongside us.”
Just as Spectrum Retirement Communities supports the Alzheimer’s Association, the association supports Spectrum Retirement’s commitment to its many Memory Care residents.
“The Alzheimer’s Association has been very helpful to us over the years, especially with bringing awareness to the disease and sharing resources that help our families through this journey,” Swearingen says. “When making the decision to move a family member to Memory Care, the research and expertise of the association help families feel confident and comfortable with their decision and recognizing what’s best for their loved one.”
Spectrum Retirement Communities and the Alzheimer’s Association have collaborated on several events over the years, and they have also partnered on education for team members and families. Amelia Schafer, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado, recently joined Spectrum Retirement in presenting a 60-minute virtual conversation, specifically geared towards families who are considering moving a loved one into a Memory Care community. “Amelia provided incredible insight and helpful resources for navigating this difficult situation,” Swearingen says. “She really contributed a wealth of knowledge to these families, which is an opportunity they wouldn’t have found elsewhere.”
The “new look” of the annual walk isn’t the only adjustment that Spectrum Retirement has had to make for team members and residents during the pandemic. Closely following CDC, national, state, and local guidelines, all Spectrum Retirement communities committed to “safety first” very early on, proactively implementing necessary operational changes to accommodate the needs of residents while keeping them happy and healthy. The “Balcony Bootcamp” initiative took exercise programs outside to residents’ balconies and patios, and team members also worked to help residents stay connected to family members through Skype sessions.
“The greatest challenge during the pandemic as it progressed was the desire to return some aspects of community life to a semblance of normalcy,” explains Swearingen. “We, like so many others, had to reinvent what group activities looked like with COVID restrictions, but doing so provided an unexpected and beneficial benefit — the simple things became important again. Team members and residents reconnected and began to see each other differently. The human connection was redefined in the best way.”