Washburn family walks to end Alzheimer's
Rockland — On Saturday, Sept. 22, the Washburn family will be taking another step toward eradicating Alzheimer’s disease by participating in the MidCoast Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Walking in memory of Bob Washburn, who passed away Oct. 31, 2011, his family hopes to raise awareness of the disease and funds towards research and treatment for those still living with the disease.
Born in Belfast, Bob grew up in Dover-Foxcroft and later raised his own family in Schenectady, N.Y. as he pursued a career with General Electric. As one of nine children in a Depression-era family, Bob was fiercely ingenious and independent – traits which made it hard for his family to initially identify cognitive declines. Washburn’s son, Kevin, remembers that his father’s need to assert his independence actually grew as part of an accompanying change in his personae as his condition worsened. This made it more difficult for the family to convince Washburn that there was a need for greater care.
“Some of his decision-making just seemed to be kind of off,” recalled Kevin in a news release. “So we convinced him to see the doctor.” Diagnosed five years ago with cognitive decline, the medical term for Alzheimer’s, Bob and his family struggled through the initial diagnosis and associated decisions that needed to be made. Washburn’s condition deteriorated to the point where the family convinced him to sell his home of 60 years in New York and move back to Maine. Eventually, he moved to the Courtyard, an assisted living unit at Quarry Hill in Camden for individuals with cognitive impairment. “It was immediately apparent that it was the right fit,” said Kevin. “The staff welcomed him as part of the family and you could see him relax.”
Washburn lived out his final years at Quarry Hill before passing away late last fall several months short of his 94th birthday. For Kevin and the rest of the family, however, the specter of Alzheimer’s does not end there. Three of Washburn’s sisters also were diagnosed with the disease, and one of them has also passed away. “When you see that just sweeping through a whole generation, it just tears your heart to see them become people that you almost don’t recognize,” said Kevin.
The Washburns invite people to join them in working toward the vision of a world without Alzheimer’s disease. The four-mile walk on Sept. 22 will begin and end at the Knox Center for Long Term Care, located at 6 White St. in Rockland. Registration for the event begins at 9 a.m. and the walk will commence at 10 a.m. The local walk is one of 12 being held in cities across the state, and those wishing to participate can sign up at alz.org/walk or call 772-0115.