FLORHAM PARK, NJ — After leading the the way in raising awareness for Alzheimer's disease and related dementias in Central/Northern New Jersey, the Township of Livingston is now in its second year of “Painting the Town Purple” for Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness Month in June. This year, the fight is expanding as more and more towns, including Caldwell, Roxbury, Red Bank, Tenafly and others, join the cause.

Cheryl Ricci-Francione, executive director of AAGNJ, explained that more than 200,000 of the nearly 6 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s or related dementias currently reside in New Jersey. She also explained that Alzheimer's is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, but is the only disease in the top 10 most fatal that cannot be cured, prevented or slowed.

“We have to research until we find a cure and we have to provide care and support for the families who struggle with this disease and struggle with hope—because they need that hope to know that future generations in their families won’t go through the same struggle,” said Ricci-Francione.

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Ricci-Francione added that although Alzheimer’s is the most prevalent type of dementia, there are many other types of dementias and brain diseases. She also noted that Alzheimer’s is an “insidious disease” because it gradually takes away the person you knew.”

“They may physically still be there, but mentally they slip away from you,” she said. “It’s even more heartbreaking for the [family and friends] who still have strong cognition because they’re watching this and witnessing this. It’s important that we learn how to interact with those who are struggling with Alzheimer’s and dementia so that our children and our neighbors are not fearful of them and know what to do if someone wanders...

“You are all part of this mission. By wearing purple this month, you are helping raise awareness about the importance of a dementia-friendly community. We don’t want to be fearful of this; we want these people to have the best quality of life that we can give them.”

Ricci-Francione also spoke about why supporters should be conscious of the half-a-million people taking care of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, most of whom can no longer work because the care is his or her fulltime job.

“The economy of the household starts to break down, but what’s worse is that the economy of the country is starting to break down because of this because it’s costing trillions of dollars to address this disease,” she said. “The work that we do now will hopefully ensure a brighter future not only for people struggling with the disease but also for the economy of our country.”

The Borough of Caldwell officially “went purple” on Monday after the mayor and council acknowledged the initiative led locally by the Whetton family to increase awareness for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias during Alzheimers & Brain Awareness Month. Approximately 80 local businesses have jumped on board for the "Caldwell Goes Purple" initiative from June 10 to June 16 by decorating their storefronts purple, offering specials on purple items in their stores, raising funds to support research to find a cure and more.

Robyn Kohn represented the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater New Jersey (AAGNJ) at last week’s Caldwell Borough Council meeting, where she spoke to the community about the impact of families affected by Alzheimer’s. Mayor John Kelley presented a proclamation in recognition of this to residents David and Rita Whetton, who along with their son, Enzo, have been instrumental in raising awareness and providing information for care and support to local families affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

As Alzeheimer’s Association Advocacy Ambassadors, the Whettons recently raised $2,500 in a single day and are getting the word out to the community in various ways, including distributing nearly 100 posters highlighting some helpful resources. Councilman Pasquale Capozzoli thanked the Whettons for their hard work on this front, noting that he recently lost both of his parents to the disease.

Last week, the Township of Livingston declared June as Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness Month, and Saint Barnabas Medical Center also showed its support of AAGNJ’s mission by illuminating the lobby of the Cooperman Family Pavilion with purple lights.

A proclamation from Livingston Mayor Al Anthony declared that from June 9 to June 15, the township is recognizing “Paint the Town Purple Week,” which encourages people to learn more about Alzheimer’s and join the fight by wearing purple, decorating their storefronts, placing purple ribbons outside their homes and more to raise help awareness.

In the Township of Roxbury, Mayor Robert DeFillippo and members of the township council gave their approval to paint Main Street purple in Succasunna from June 16 to June 22. The Borough of Red Bank also plans to issue a proclamation during the June 19 council meeting, and the Borough of Tenafly is also “Painting the Town Purple” on June 12 with a proclamation from Mayor Peter Rustin to be issued during a ceremony at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades.

Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle will join the Mayor of Tenafly on Wednesday to present a statewide resolution for the event as well.

While issuing the proclamation in Livingston, Anthony also acknowledged that “brain health” does not only apply to Alzheimer’s disease, but to other mental disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress as well. He said that the Township of Livingston is committed to supporting this cause and encouraged all community members to do so as well, stating that although AAGNJ is making progress, the rate of research needs to accelerate in order to find treatment in next 15 years.

Visit www.alz.org to learn more about the disease and how to join the fight against it and for the AAGNJ’s vision of “a world without Alzheimer’s.”