Minnesota Mom Partners with Country Music Star Jay Allen to Fund Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support





LAKEVILLE, Minn. – Erin Truax knows too well the devastating effects of Alzheimer's.

In 2015, her family suffered the loss of her grandfather to the disease. That same year, she wrote and published a book hoping to help her young daughter understand what happened to their "Pumba." Now, Truax is partnering with country music star Jay Allen to do even more.

Every year, 5.8 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's disease, often with family members unprepared financially or mentally for the sudden loss of a loved one who may not remember who they are. So Truax, the current Mrs. Great Lakes International and a Lakeville resident, has partnered with country music star Jay Allen, state and federal elected officials, and Alzheimer's Disease International to bring needed funding to family members throughout the U.S. and the Virgin Islands.

"My family was able to come together for my grandfather and ensure that he knew he was loved and constantly cared for," Truax said. "But we know not every family can provide that support. Often, the financial piece is one of the most difficult parts to navigate because family members are quitting their jobs to take care of loved ones. They simply can't afford the care Alzheimer's patients may need."

Allen, who lost his mom, Sherry Rich, to Alzheimer's in 2019, said most people do not realize the cost associated with caring for a loved one with the disease.

"My mom had early-onset Alzheimer's, which is rarer," Allen said. "We weren't experienced or educated on Alzheimer's, so there wasn't money or resources put aside for her care. We didn't have a lot of time to come up with the finances and had no idea how much it would cost. But people were very gracious and very kind when I had to make some hard asks."

Allen's uncle quit his job in Austin to help his mom during the day while Allen's dad was at work. His sister drove several hours each week to help whenever possible. Allen, who was sometimes on the road, helped where he could when he wasn't home: raising money.

In 2017, he released "Blank Stares," a song dedicated to his mom and the debilitating disease that eventually took her life just three years after her diagnosis. All proceeds from the song have gone to fund Alzheimer's research, totaling nearly $40 million to date.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, in 2019 alone, caregivers of people with dementia provided an estimated 18.6 billion hours of unpaid assistance. Nearly half of dementia caregivers (49%) indicated that providing help is highly stressful compared with 35% of caregivers of people without dementia. Alzheimer's is the 6th leading cause of death.

Last month, Truax joined fellow advocates from across the country to meet virtually with federal lawmakers to support The Alzheimer's Caregiver Support Act. The legislation provides grants to expand training and support services for unpaid caregivers of people living with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. The grants would cover training and services, including caregiver support groups, group education and skills-training sessions.

Truax and Allen partner with Alzheimer's and Dementia Association of the USVI to ensure residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands aren't overlooked when it comes to receiving funding for caregivers. The Caregiver Support Act aims to help more diverse communities, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

Allen said he's been in talks with local supporters about hosting a concert in the Virgin Islands to bring awareness and financial support. Making sure families are talking about dementia earlier is vital to him.

"Looking back now, we realize there were probably signs of dementia three to five years earlier," he said. "We just thought mom had a poor memory. She would become flustered and frustrated during trivia games, but the key moment was when she had to pull over while driving to work because she couldn't remember where she was going."

Because research shows that those with a parent or sibling with Alzheimer's are more likely to develop the disease, Allen says his family is hyper-vigilant now.

"People would say, ‘Mom's getting forgetful’ and then they laugh it off, but you need to take that seriously," he said.

Truax is also mindful and aware of the risk. She wants to ensure that underserved communities, minorities and women are not left behind.

"My grandfather passed away with a loving family by his side and love in his heart," she said. "That was something Alzheimer's could never take away from him. I want to make sure other families have the same opportunity."

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Random facts about me: I'm a Friends and coffee addict, I collect Monopoly board games (I'm the Monopoly champion, after all!) and I'm a closet romantic (shhhh). But mostly, I love being a mom, serving my country and all things journalism!

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