Despite D.C. event cancellation, Alzheimer's Association presses on during COVID-19 pandemic

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- For more than 60 years, Ken Gregersen says he and his wife Evie were inseparable.

Ken Gregersen and wife, Evie, pictured at their wedding and years later after her Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Evie is currently quarantined in a care facility due to the coronavirus outbreak. (Source: Kenneth Gregersen)

“We were pretty close,” said Gregersen. “We’ve always done things together.”

Evie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease a few years ago. She has since been moved into a care facility.

“I was able to go over there and give her meals,” said Gregersen. “I was there three times a day.”

But now, as the coronavirus spreads, Evie is under a strict quarantine and isn’t allowed to have any visitors. Ken hasn’t seen Evie in more than two weeks.

Vice president of Care and Support Beth Kallmyer with the Alzheimer’s Association says patients and caregivers across the nation are facing similar struggles, that's in addition to the everyday challenges of the disease.

“It’s really devastating for them,” said Kallmyer. “It weighs on them heavily.”

To ease the burden, the organization hosts an annual trip to Washington D.C where advocates from across the country lobby Congress to devote money towards research and policy.

But, this year, the event has been canceled, at a time when non-profit organizations are concerned about the economy and where to find funding.

"We are a donor funded organization, it is a concern” said Kallmyer. “Non-profit organizations provide a lot of support services for people in communities across the U.S. We would like Congress to recognize all of those contributions that are happening and to think about how they could support those non-profit communities as we move forward."

While members can’t come to Washington this year, according to a document on the association's website, the group is "working to roll out a
comprehensive campaign that will deliver the advocacy impact [they] would have achieved through the forum."

Meanwhile, they are still accepting donations and looking for volunteers.

That’s how Ken says he is spending some of his time, while waiting for Evie’s quarantine to be lifted.

“I think that’s probably the most rewarding thing for me,” said Gregersen. “I can share some of my experiences as a caregiver.”

If you or a loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, the association has a 24/7 helpline. You are encouraged to call (800) 272-3900.

You can also learn more about the association’s efforts during the coronavirus pandemic on their website, here.

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