As of last week, Jack Fussell has walked a total of 11,800 miles. He has staved off exhaustion and braved hazardous weather nearly every day since he began his journey on November 16, 2014. His goal is noble – to help raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s disease, the illness that claimed his father in 2000.
Fussell began his journey at the Atlantic Ocean, near his home in Tybee Island, Georgia. It’s not his first cross-country walk, but he remains extraordinarily impassioned for his cause. “Alzheimer’s is devastating,” Fussell says. “It’s hard for the individual that is diagnosed, but it’s really the families and caregivers that struggle the most. Not only do people need to donate to this cause, but they need to know how serious it is.”
Fussell knows too well the suffering that families of Alzheimer’s patients endure and the painful aftermath of a loved one’s death. Without assistance, the bereaved can fall into a routine of depression and self-neglect as dangerous as any physical disease. Nine months after his father’s death, Fussell was morbidly obese (272 lbs.) and had a very serious bleeding ulcer. Fortunately, he was able to turn his life around with a stringent diet and light exercise, losing 100 lbs in 11 months. Shortly after, he lost his only brother, Denny, to a heart attack.
Trauma was what drew Fussell to long distance walking; he used it as a means of escape and soon planned a cross-country walk. Eventually, people started to ask questions. “The second person I told [about the walk] asked me what charity I was walking for. [I] hadn’t thought about it, but immediately thought Alzheimer’s,” he said. Fussell’s life has been particularly touched by the disease: not only did his father have Alzheimers, seven of his father’s twelve siblings also had it.
“I’m doing two things – I’m trying to tell caregivers that I find that the Alzheimer’s Association exists and they can get help from them, and I’m also trying to tell the other part of the public to ask their lawmakers to give us more money for research,” Fussell explained. His first walk raised $27,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association and he hopes to raise even more this time around. Last year, cancer research received $6 billion from the US government while Alzheimer’s research received only $500,000. Fussell hopes his efforts to raise awareness will push government representatives to reverse recent cuts to Alzheimer’s funding.
Over 5 million Americans suffer with Alzheimer’s disease. A new patient is diagnosed every 67 seconds and it is the sixth leading cause of death in this country. If a family member or loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, please know that Freedom Home Care is here not only to help them, but also to help support you. Contact us today or take a look at our home care services to see what care plan is right for you.