Healthy Outlook: Alzheimer’s Association, Purple Pals offer free resources and events

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In efforts to help those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and their families, a University of Kansas student is working to get a new organization off the ground, and a group with quite a bit more experience under its belt wants Lawrence folks to know about its free resources.

Factsheets from the national nonprofit Alzheimer’s Association,, say that one in 10 people age 65 and older has this dementia. Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women, according to the organization. It also says the disease disproportionately affects African-American people, who are twice as likely as older white people to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

5.5 million Americans age 65 and up were living with Alzheimer’s in 2018; that includes an estimated 53,000 in Kansas, according to the association. Additionally, it estimates that 151,000 caregivers provided 172 million hours of unpaid care in the state in 2017.

Purple Pals to host events in Lawrence

Paige Harding, a sophomore at KU, recently founded the student-run organization Purple Pals, which aims to support those in the Lawrence community who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

“We aim to raise awareness, create rewarding friendships, and support the hardworking caregivers and families of those with Alzheimer’s,” the group says on a GoFundMe page it launched in January.

Purple Pals will host events every other Tuesday, beginning this week. Trained college student volunteers will host activities such as making valentines, painting, making tie blankets, playing games, doing puzzles, doing some physical activities and more, Harding said in an email to the Journal-World.

“These events are free of charge to people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease to provide them with some much needed social interaction and to give their caregivers some time to themselves,” Harding wrote.

The events will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Feb. 26, March 5 and 19; April 2, 16 and 30; and May 7 in the social hall at the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center, 1631 Crescent Road. The group has also launched a Facebook page at Harding couldn’t be immediately reached for more information on Friday.

Alzheimer’s Association offers free help

The Alzheimer’s Association has invested more than $425 million in research since 1982, according to a spokeswoman with the group, but that’s only part of the mission.

Juliette Bradley, director of communications for the organization’s Heart of America Chapter, shared three components of resources the nonprofit has available to residents of the 66 counties it serves in Kansas and Missouri.

She said the first is individual and family support, which looks different for everyone because people might want to take a different approach to the disease.

“So perhaps I would want to delve into the website and come in and go through our library and borrow some materials,” she said. “Other people want to sit down one-on-one with a social worker and say, ‘Help me plan this out.'”

The chapter offers services out of its main office at 3846 W. 75th St. in Prairie Village; its Education Center is in the same block. Its Northeast Kansas Regional Office is at 3625 SW 29th St., Suite 102, in Topeka.

“When someone walks in our office and asks to use the library or sit down with a social worker or go to a support group or attend a social engagement group, all of that is free,” she said.

The second component is education and training.

“We provide a core group of programs — everything from legal and financial planning, what to do when you get a diagnosis, how to put your affairs in order, to effective communication strategies with individuals who have Alzheimer’s disease,” Bradley said. Staff can help caregivers break down the dementia behaviors they might be seeing.

The third component is advocacy, Bradley said — that’s a way that those who want to get involved can share their stories with legislators at the state and national levels, and be a voice for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.

But the chapter is especially trying to raise awareness about its free help for families.

“People will say to us, ‘I wish I would’ve known that you existed … my mom had Alzheimer’s three years ago. It would have been really great to know I could have walked in your office and sat down with the licensed social worker and paid nothing,'” Bradley said.

For more information, visit, call 913-831-3888 for the Prairie Village office or call 785-271-1844 for the Topeka office. The nonprofit also has a 24-hour information and support line, 1-800-273-3900.

About Healthy Outlook

Healthy Outlook is a column written by Journal-World reporter and Health section editor Mackenzie Clark, in hopes of helping readers make their lives a little bit happier, healthier and more active.

Have questions about the world of health and wellness in Lawrence, or a health story idea? Contact Mackenzie:

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