Even though the Mullikin family was familiar with Alzheimer's and dementia prior to Carol Mullikin's diagnosis — Carol's mother died from Alzheimer's — it was still a shock to find out that the matriarch of their family had developed the disease.
"We knew about Alzheimer's because Carol's mother had it, but it didn't hit us until Carol had it. You just don't think it will happen to you. Some people just need to be aware that it is something that can happen to their family somewhere down the line," said Carol's husband, Gene Mullikin. "There are cues that you might not even be aware of that someone might be developing Alzheimer's. But as we look back now, and other people have said this too, there were signs that we didn't recognize."
Gene and his two daughters, Cheryl Emerson and Kristin Quist, will be this year's honorary chairs for the Walk to End Alzheimer's - Western Wisconsin, which will start with a ceremony at 9 a.m., followed by the walk at 9:30 a.m., on Saturday, Sept. 15, at New Richmond High School.
"Since we've been trying to expand the walk to encompass Western Wisconsin, we thought it would be good to find a new location that could better accommodate all of the new people who would come to the walk," Emerson said. "Participants will walk the perimeter of the high school campus, which will be about 1 mile starting and ending at the flagpole out front."
Carol was moved to the Kitty Rhoades Memorial Memory Care Center in New Richmond in March 2017 after 3.5 years of Gene taking care of her at home.
"We also want to help people understand that families need to stick together," Quist said. "It can be difficult on your family and your feelings because you want them to be the same as they were, but they can't do that anymore. Loving them no matter what can be hard since there are a lot of cases where people with Alzheimer's are combative or just mean."
As of Monday, Sept. 10, the walk had raised $48,141.81, which puts the total at the halfway mark of its $95,000 goal. A total of 241 participants and 46 teams have signed up so far. Registration for the walk will start at 8 a.m. on the day of the walk.
"The walk is meant to help create funds to find a cure, so it is an honor to be asked to be honorary chairs and represent that," Emerson said. "Alzheimer's has affected so many families in so many ways from so many different aspects, including emotional, financial and physically. There are are so many caregivers out there that don't have their loved one in a home or somewhere they can be taken care of. That takes a toll on those individuals. Getting information out about resources as well is important to us."
This year's walk will also honor Bill and Mary Ann Derrick, who were big supporters of the walk. Bill died this summer, six months after Mary Ann died.
"I'm really excited to see all the people who will come out to the event this year. I love hearing all the stories people share and all the hugs you can get and give," Quist said. "People have been so compassionate when they find out our mom — at a stage of Alzheimer's where she does not talk or interact — is in the dementia unit. People ask about our mother all the time because she is a wonderful lady and people remember that about her.
"Rain or shine, the walk will go on. We would love for anyone and everyone to come out to the event and have a good time and help raise funds."
For more information on the event, visit alz.org and search for the event by zip code (54017), or contact Julene Bowe at 715-720-7611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I think a lot of people segregate themselves when something like this happens to their family. They are just so busy taking care of their loved one and figuring out the next steps that I think the support pieces are even more important for those people," Emerson said. "The walk will be a good place for those people because there will be a chance to share your stories with others who know what you are going through."