FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | June 25, 2008
Alzheimer’s Foundation Challenges Nation to Contribute to Quilt to Remember
Call to Action Comes in Light of Climbing Death Rate
NEW YORK, NY— For the past two years, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) Quilt to Remember has been powerfully yet tenderly sharing the stories of lives lost to Alzheimer’s disease and related illnesses—those like Noble Shaw, a veteran married to Glenda for 46 years; Porter Burt, a farmer; and Audrey Zieske, who taught her daughter how to sew.
Today, AFA challenged people across America to patch together their own stories of loved ones in order to multiply the quilt’s size six-fold to mark the disease’s climb to the number six spot in leading causes of death in the United States.
The “Quilt to Remember Challenge” comes in response to this new statistic and as the AFA Quilt to Remember hits a milestone, surpassing the “100” point, with 102 heartfelt panels in its collection. Now, the goal is to add another 500 quilts by November 2009, National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. With that, when laid out side by side, the panels composing the AFA Quilt to Remember would span approximately 2,900 square feet—the width of 40 Olympic size swimming pools.
The AFA Quilt to Remember is the nation’s first grand-scale quilt that pays tribute to the deceased and individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as their caregivers and healthcare professionals. It is an ongoing project, intended to continually grow in size with contributions from individuals and organizations and to travel the country to raise awareness of the disease.
“The AFA Quilt to Remember touches people’s hearts in a dramatic and unprecedented way. It’s critical at this time to build on this momentum and underscore the quilt’s compelling message about the need for care and a cure,” said Eric J. Hall, president and chief executive officer of AFA, a national nonprofit organization based in New York.
“Through this initiative,” he added, “we’re asking Americans to reflect individually on the lives of loved ones, and we’re urging the nation to reflect collectively on the pervasive and harsh reality of this disease.”
The incidence of the disorder, which results in loss of memory and other intellectual function and eventually death, is expected to triple to 16 million in the United States by mid-century.
In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that deaths from Alzheimer’s disease increased one notch, from the 7th to 6th leading cause of death, while deaths from other chronic conditions, including diabetes, declined in 2006. It estimated that 72,914 Americans died of Alzheimer's disease in 2006.
The AFA Quilt to Remember serves as a snapshot of the growing impact of this progressive brain disorder. The majority of contributors have crafted panels in memory of relatives and clients, and others who originally submitted quilts to honor those living with the disease have since watched loved ones decline further or, in fact, pass away.
Many have noted the activity’s therapeutic benefits.
Julie Sefton of Bartlett, TN stitched together black and white patterns to illustrate the disease’s impact on her mother, Lura Irene Ash Walton, who passed away in June 2005.
Before Alzheimer’s disease, her mother’s life “was full with her neighbors, her beloved dog, her family, including five grandsons, and her unflagging enthusiasm for life,” Sefton said. “After, her life became fragmented…It was so hard to travel that road alongside Mom, feeling her frustration, hearing her confusion and watching the disease continue to nibble away at her abilities.”
Although making the quilt was emotionally difficult, she noted, “The process allowed me to struggle and cry, and ultimately move through my grief.”
Whether made by accomplished quilters or amateurs, panel makers typically have collected old photos and other cherished mementoes; selected fabrics that reflect favorite colors, hobbies and careers; and written poems and other tributes to creatively celebrate the lives of relatives and clients. Panels made by individuals measure four feet square and those by organizations, eight feet square.
A quilt block by Phyllis Boor of Elkhart, IN features a three-dimensional yellow sunflower to denote her mom’s love for flowers. Coincidentally, it arrived just in time for Mother’s Day—and was recorded as panel number 100.
“I wish my mother would be able to share in knowing that she is being thought of around the world,” said Boor, whose mother, Virginia Loepker, currently resides in a nursing home.
For Susan McMullen Ledgerwood of Cushing, OK, a novice sewer: “This project was a big undertaking, but it was worth it. I would challenge other people not to be afraid of the process, and to just do it. If I can do this, anyone can.”
AFA announced the AFA Quilt to Remember in late 2005 and emotionally unveiled it in November 2006 in New York, drawing hundreds of visitors. Since, the thought-provoking work of art has been on display in more than a dozen cities from coast to coast. It will be showcased in Washington, DC and San Francisco in September.
To find out how to contribute a panel and for tour information, visit www.alzquilt.org.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is a nonprofit organization based in New York City that focuses on providing optimal care to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related illnesses, and their families, and unites 800 member organizations nationwide that provide hands-on programs. AFA’s services include a toll-free hot line with counseling by licensed social workers, a free caregiver magazine, and National Memory Screening Day. For information, call 866-AFA-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org.
Contact: Carol Steinberg