WASHINGTON - After Kristin Westmoreland's father, John Angus, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, she took action with the Alzheimer's Association. The 33-year-old works as a member of the Young NationALZ to raise awareness on the disease because she knows it can happen to anyone -- at any age.
Growing up, she saw her grandparents suffer through the disease, but it seemed normal. They were older and led long lives. The shocker occurred in 2014 when her father had been diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer's.
"What was so shocking was that I had experienced this and those symptoms with my grandfather for a decade, and it still took me by such surprise when it hit as close as my own father," Westmoreland said.
She fondly recalls her father being a fierce political debater, an intellect and a generous individual who helped anyone in need. Today, he is a completely different person. He is extremely shy, quiet and can barely converse.
"There are no words to talk about experiencing that transformation in someone as close to you as your father," she said. "It's heartbreaking. It's hard every single day. "
Rather than focusing on the heartache, Westmoreland chooses to remain positive and concentrates on the joys of life.
"I have a 9-month-old nephew who's stolen our hearts including my father's. In fact, Bodi is still one of the only individuals that my father can recognize," she said.
Her desire is for people to understand that Alzheimer's is not an old person's disease -- it impacts people of all ages.
June is Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness month, and FOX 5 DC Cares has partnered with the Alzheimer's Association as it gets ready for its big fundraising event called The Longest Day - and to feature some of the amazing members of our local community who are dealing with Alzheimer's and dementia. All week we will be bringing you their stories.
The Longest Day is held across the country by the Alzheimer's Association as a way of honoring patients afflicted with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers, as well as raising awareness and funds for the Alzheimer's Association.
The event is held annually on the summer solstice, Monday, June 20, which is the longest day of the calendar year.
To get involved:
-- Participate in The Longest Day on June 20, a sunrise-to-sunset event to honor those facing Alzheimer's disease with strength, heart and endurance.
-- Local businesses and organizations are encouraged to shine a light on Alzheimer's by lighting their buildings purple this month to show their support and raise awareness.
-- Join the Alzheimer's Association in wearing purple throughout the month, especially on June 20. Share photos of yourself, family, friends and co-workers wearing the movement's signature color via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. with the hashtag #TheLongestDay. Visit alz.org/cnfl or call 800-272-3900.
The Alzheimer's Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research. It is the largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer's research. Visit alz.org or call 800-272-3900.
Here are some ways you can get involved, or donate to a team already involved: