FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | February 21, 2007
Alzheimer's Foundation of America to Display Quilt to Remember in Chicago
NEW YORK , NY — At the Council for Jewish Elderly (CJE) in Chicago, everyone from staff to caregivers to individuals with Alzheimer's disease has been buzzing with activity—designing, painting, coloring, and gluing down sequins, glitter and yarn. Their project: creating a huge panel for the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) Quilt to Remember, the nation's first dementia-related quilt that is grand in scale and will continually grow with ongoing contributions.
Working at a feverish pace, CJE's quilters are determined to complete their panel in time for the unveiling of the AFA Quilt to Remember in their hometown. The quilt will be on display on May 11 to 13, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., in Grant Park in Chicago. It marks the second stop of a nationwide tour.
Consisting of emotional and creative panels crafted by individuals and organizations across America, the AFA Quilt to Remember pays tribute to either those who had or have Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia, their caregivers or healthcare professionals. Its goals include bringing the issue of “care…in addition to cure” to the national stage, and highlighting the enormity and reality of the brain disorder in an unprecedented way.
“We're bringing this emotional work of art to the heart of America to speak for those who can no longer speak for themselves,” said Eric J. Hall, chief executive officer of the AFA, a New York-based national nonprofit organization that focuses on providing optimal care to those affected by Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses.
Exhibiting the quilt during Mother's Day weekend is especially significant, since many participants have created panels to honor their mothers and grandmothers.
“The project enables us to put a face to this disease, letting the world know in a powerful way that individuals with the disease are someone's mother, or someone's father, sibling, child, etc. Each panel is a celebration of someone's life,” Hall said.
Currently, approximately five million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, including one in ten aged 65 and older and nearly one in two aged 85 and older. In Illinois, an estimated 210,000 people have the brain disorder, and the incidence is expected to rise 14 percent by 2025.
Since AFA announced the AFA Quilt to Remember in late 2005, more than 300 individuals and organizations from coast to coast have made commitments to submit panels; those created by individuals measure four feet square and those from organizations are eight feet square. AFA unveiled the massive project for the first time on November 3 and 4, 2006 in Central Park in New York City, drawing hundreds of visitors over two days.
AFA will continue to accept panels, as well as monetary donations to support the initiative, and will take the quilt on the road to cities across America; following Chicago, the tour will stop in Dallas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and New York in 2007. For more information, visit www.alzquilt.org or call 866-AFA-8484.
The Council for Jewish Elderly, a member organization of AFA, has gone all-out with the project. It asked six different branches of the agency, including adult day services, long-term care settings and independent housing, to each create 10 squares that will ultimately be stitched together into one large panel. Activities coordinators were given off-white fabric to use as the backdrop and were instructed to let self-expression run wild.
Individuals with dementia are a major component of the quilting team, according to Judy Holstein, CJE's director of adult day services who spearheaded the agency's participation in the project.
“This project is giving people a chance to put their artistic imprint on a national project that speaks about and for Alzheimer's disease,” she said. “For those with dementia, the hands-on, multi-sensory experience gives them meaning for their day and ultimately their lives. When their creativity is evoked, that's a gift, and that's a wonderful thing to do for their quality of life and self-esteem.”
The initiative has also offered caregivers the opportunity for quality time with their loved ones. “We haven't done something like this together for a very long time,” said Fran Hoeffler, referring to working on a shared project with her husband, who has dementia.
Noted Holstein: “For that moment in time, his illness disappeared for the two of them.”
So taken with the project, CJE participants have already made a total of 70 softly-colored patches, ranging from fish to abstract designs, and they are still going strong. The extra squares will be on display throughout CJE.
But for now, all eyes are on the roll out of the AFA Quilt to Remember in their city—selecting and stitching together the finished product, and organizing trips for the agency's clients to the display.
Across Illinois, and the rest of the nation, individuals who are contributing to the AFA Quilt to Remember include a mix of quilters and newcomers to the craft.
Diana Budke of Manito, IL has tapped her quilting expertise to create a colorful patchwork that honors her mother, Leona Hony. The panel captures details of her mom's life, including buses to represent her occupation as a school bus driver and doves to “represent Mom and how beautiful and fragile she is becoming,” said Budke.
For Michelle Sharko of Saint Charles, IL, the AFA Quilt to Remember offers a vehicle to remember her grandmother, Claire Speh. In her application to submit a panel, Sharko wrote, “My grandmother is the most giving, loving, generous person….I do not know much about sewing, but I will learn and make this in her loving memory.”
The Alzheimer's Foundation of America is a national nonprofit organization headquartered in New York and made up of hundreds of member organizations that provide hands-on programs to meet the educational, emotional, practical and social needs of families affected by Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses. AFA's services include a toll-free hot line, counseling, educational materials, a free caregiver magazine, and professional training. For information, call (toll-free) 866-AFA-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org .
Note: Photos of the AFA Quilt to Remember and specific panels are available upon request.
Contact: Carol Steinberg