The Longest Day Volunteer Lia Jones – Color Her Motivated

On June 20, Denver marriage and family therapist Lia Jones will spend the day coloring.  It’s not a new form of therapy. It’s her way of paying tribute to her 84-year-old mother, Nelly, who is dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, and has found a measure of pleasure and refuge from the disease through art.

Along with five other volunteers on her Color My World team, Jones is participating in the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado’s The Longest Day program to raise funds to support Alzheimer’s education, services and research, and to pay tribute to those like Nelly who daily deal with the challenges posed by the disease.

Through her education, Jones knows there is only so much she can do to counter the toll that Alzheimer’s is having on her mother.

“The smart, quick, creative woman with dancing feet of fire was struggling to process things we take for granted as simple, everyday parts of life,” said Jones of her mother. It was at that point that Jones realized she needed to help her parents relocate to a senior living residence.

When the disease robbed Nelly of the ability to enjoy reading, daughter Lia turned to art.  About five months ago, she bought her mother a coloring book, and the change was immediate.

“She loves it,” said Jones. “It was so helpful to my mom. She spends much of her day surrounded by her colorful pencils and beautiful coloring books.”

Her mother’s discovery of the joys of art inspired Jones to assemble the Color My World team for The Longest Day event with five friends, who will participate in a dawn-to-dusk coloring relay, each coloring during a designated portion of the day.  At sunset, the team will gather for a barbecue dinner to share their art and stories. Due to the generosity of donors, Jones’ team already has exceeded its personal fundraising goal of $4,160.

“What a great way to spend the day, joining her (Nelly) in spirit and in action, creating a more colorful world,” said Jones.

But Jones didn’t stop there.  She also is helping raise donations for a Longest Day event at her parents’ new home, The Residence at Timber Pines in Spring Hill, Florida, where residents and staff there will be participating in their own events to raise funds for the fight to end Alzheimer’s. Her Dad will also be physically participating in the events at The Residences throughout their event day.

“When it comes to Alzheimer’s, it’s a new concept for many people to consider because we’re all living longer,” said Jones.  “It has become an epidemic, and it’s something with which we all need to be concerned.  We all know someone affected by Alzheimer’s.”

The Longest Day

Last year my friends and family participated in The Longest Day on June 20, for the first time. We’ve had a Walk team for the past six first walking in honor and then in memory of my husband Bill and wanted to find a way to involve more family and friends in the cause.

The Longest Day
Join us on June 21, 2013 for The Longest Day, as together we honor those living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.

After struggling for five years with symptoms, Bill was diagnosed with Younger Onset Alzheimer’s when he was just 57. Our journey lasted a total of nine years and he died in 2010. He was my soul mate and my best buddy on so many adventures. We camped across Colorado and into Utah, South Dakota and Wyoming. We skied resorts from Vermont to New Hampshire to Colorado to Utah and the Tetons. Even in the midst of his disease, we pushed our limits in the search for new, challenging adventures. When the Alzheimer’s Association launched The Longest Day it seemed like the perfect way to continue to honor Bill’s legacy. Along with my friends and family, we took up activities that fit best with what we love to do. My younger sister in Durango rode her horses and her road bike trainer, my parents walked the streets of Vail during what was their anniversary trip, my sister Lynne walked the trails near her home in Lakewood, and my good friend Bob and I rode our mountain bikes near Boulder for four hours. All day, somewhere in the country, our team was doing something they love to raise money and awareness in memory of Bill. Thanks to our generous friends and family, we also raised nearly $1,700 for the Association.

The Longest Day at Vail
My mom and dad walked throughout Vail for The Longest Day.

Did I mention The Longest Day is scheduled to take place on the longest day of the year? The summer solstice occurs each year in June, this year on Friday, June 21. That means there are 16 hours of daylight from sunrise to sunset. The Alzheimer’s Association chose that day in recognition of caregivers, who like me spend every day from sunrise to sunset and into the night providing care for someone they love who is living with Alzheimer’s. The tagline for the event is “for them every day is the longest day, for you it’s just one” and it rings true. The Longest Day offers us an opportunity to give up one day to raise money, awareness and an understanding that this disease steals the person you love long before they die. We have to find effective treatments, we have to stop this disease before more spouses, children, grandchildren and friends lose people who mean so very much. Please consider forming a team this year and join us in 16 hours of doing whatever you love to help end Alzheimer’s.

Sara Spaulding,
Former caregiver for best friend, partner and husband Bill Perrin, Jr
Alz.org/thelongestday