ROXBURY, NJ - Homes and businesses along Main Street in Succasunna are being urged to decorate their properties with splashes of purple this month to raise awareness about Alzheimer's Disease and brain health.

The "Paint Main Street Purple" drive is being spearheaded locally by the Roxbury Women's Club as part of its role as a committee member of the Alzheimer's Association of Greater New Jersey (AAGNJ), said club member Phyllis Chanda.

"The Roxbury Mayor and Council granted permission for us to 'paint Main Street purple," Chanda said. "Basically, we're asking people to decorate their houses and businesses with purple to show support."

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The decorations can include installing purple ribbons around trees and lamp posts or "anything you can," Chanda said. The effort will include a special event June 18 where people will make their own ice cream sundaes at 109 Main Street, the headquarters of Home Instead Senior Care and Edward Jones Financial Advisor Bill Clinton.

Roxbury will also be the site of the Northwest N.J. Walk to End Alzheimers. That event will take place Sept. 22 at Horseshoe Lake Park in Succasunna. One of the goals of the Paint Main Street Purple idea, and the ice cream sundae event, is to get people to sign-up for the September walk, Chanda said.

No Cure Yet; Plenty of Hope

Cheryl Ricci-Francione, executive director of AAGNJ, said more than 200,000 of the nearly 6 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s or related dementias live in New Jersey. She also said 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.

She added that, although Alzheimer’s is the most prevalent type of dementia, there are many other types of dementias and brain diseases. She stressed 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,” Ricci-Francione 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.”

There are more than 500,000 people taking care of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, she said. Most of these people can no longer work because the care is their full-time 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 ... because it’s costing trillions of dollars to address this disease,” Ricci-Francione said. “The work 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.”

To learn more, visit www.alz.org.