Despite just being 19 years old, Taylor Hutton, a junior from Wichita studying finance at McPherson College, has been an advocate for Alzheimer’s awareness for years. She hopes to raise awareness of the deadly disease on the McPherson College campus during Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in November.
Hutton will share Alzheimer’s facts with campus and collect signatures on cards of support that she will deliver to state and national lawmakers. Campus organizations will also raise funds through events like Pie the President and Holiday Bingo and plan on covering the campus with purple Alzheimer Awareness items. The primary goal of the activities will be to raise awareness and spread education about the disease.
“I seem to do this everywhere I go,” she said about her advocacy. After seeing all the efforts during October to raise awareness for cancer, Hutton reached out to sponsors of several campus organizations to see if there would be an interest in recognizing Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. She has coordinated awareness events at her high school, junior college, and now at McPherson College.
Hutton’s interest in Alzheimer’s is personal. Her grandmother was diagnosed at the age of 47 and passed away in 2002. Of her grandmother’s five children, four are affected by Alzheimer’s, including Hutton’s mother who was diagnosed at 49 years old. Hutton’s mother has been in long-term care for three years and was just recently put in hospice care.
“It’s very dominant in my family,” Hutton said. “I work to raise awareness at all levels so that my kids won’t have to go through what I did when I was 12 years old.”
Her advocacy was sparked in high school by people’s misperception and insensitivity about the disease. She started noticing jokes on social media and hearing classmates say things like only old people can get Alzheimer’s. But when she heard misinformation shared in a health class, she decided it was time to take action.
She started by designing and selling t-shirts and giving the proceeds to the local Walk to End Alzheimer’s event. Today she serves as an Ambassador for the Central and Western Kansas Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and has attended two National Alzheimer’s Conferences in Washington, D.C. where she meets with lawmakers to share her story and advocate for increased funding for Alzheimer’s research. The first time she attended the National Conference, she had to acquire special permission because it was only open to people 18 years and older and she was just 17. She will attend her third conference this April and is scheduled to speak at the state conference in November where she will talk about support for caregivers.
“At twelve, no child should have to start parenting their parent and at nineteen nobody should have to look at their mom and see Alzheimer’s,” Hutton said.
She and one of her sisters also participate in a clinical study by the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network and has undergone a spinal tap, MRI, CAT scan, memory and motor skill tests to help researchers learn more about the disease.
Hutton hopes that her efforts to share her story and information about Alzheimer’s at McPherson College will encourage others to be better informed.
“Everybody will have a connection to this disease,” she said. “Even if it’s just through knowing me.”