Michelle Kelman and Megan Pedersen

Michelle Kelman (left) and Megan Pedersen (right) get ready to talk to residents about how to get involved with Alzheimer's Association and with the Walk to End Alzheimer's. 

OTTUMWA — Many people just started at 7 a.m. It was already a hustle and bustle for residents coming into the Hy-vee South Starbucks for a caffeine boost.

As soon as residents walked in, they were greeted by brochures and people in purple polo shirts from Alzheimer's Association.

Michelle Kelman, a senior development specialist, Program Specialist Megan Pedersen and Chair Patti Hannah sat at the table ready to talk about volunteer opportunities for Alzheimer’s association and how people can get involved in the walk on September 14.

Kelman said volunteers can participate in planning the walks, help with registration on the day of the walk, work remotely and make donations. “ I encourage people to volunteer in those different ways,” she said. “Money raised goes to Alzheimer’s research and toward resources to help those with the disease. I also encourage people to get involved by making donations.”

Hannah said residents can register to walk by going online to alz.org. They can sign up individually or register in teams. “We just want people to walk and understand what Alzheimer’s is about,” she said. “Join a team and start walking, reach out to anybody in the Alzheimer’s program,” she said.

Pedersen said volunteers can also become community educators where people will go out into the community and present different programs.

“People who have experience with public speaking can become community educators,” Pedersen said. Pedersen said another way people can get involved is to become group facilitators who will help facilitate support for caregivers.

They not only gave information for how residents could get involved in the walk and with different volunteer opportunities, but also gave an overview of Alzheimer’s, the different phases, and how to recognize Alzheimer’s warning signs. They focused on their own stories about how they got involved in Alzheimer's Association, awareness, education and resources for families.

Hannah said she became involved with the organization after attending a Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Des Moines after her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. After that, she contacted Kelman, asking how she could get involved in the organization. She later went on the logistics chair.

“I still have to support this because I don’t want a family to suffer like we did,” she said.

Hannah said families don’t have to suffer if they are able to recognize Alzheimer’s warning signs early on. One a significant warning sign is when people forgot daily routines. “What we worry about is their everyday activities like forgetting to shower, going to an appointment,” she said. “There are significant differences other than the normal forgetfulness like going into a room and not remembering why a person walked into a room,” she said.

Like Hannah, Pedersen also had a grandfather pass away. After that point she wanted to get involved in the organization. She got into the healthcare organization and helped families with dementia and Alzheimer’s. She volunteered and then got a job for the program specialist position.

After Pedersen said research has changed. “A lot of research was strictly focused on medication at first,” she said. “ Now research is focused on risk factors and why people are developing those diseases and what we can do to minimize our risk.”

“Those biomarkers are interested to look at, to see how early it can affect people,” Kelman said. “It may start at 30 but you don’t see the symptoms until 45 and 60.”