Thursday, July 29th, 2021
Flush with Cash
Traveling toilet is raising funds for Alzheimer's
By Erin Gardner
A purple toilet named Portia the Potty is being used to raise money for the Alzh. . .
A dark purple toilet popping up on people's lawns is being used to raise funds for the Alzheimer's Association.
Kirstie Miller, business development coordinator at Briarwood Village in Coldwater came up with the idea after brainstorming marketing strategies for the assisted living facility. Seeing a similar idea on Pinterest, she took an old, broken toilet and asked maintenance worker Gary Griesdorn to spray paint it.
Portia the Potty was born.
The strategy is simple. If Portia lands in a yard, the resident can pay $10 to have it removed, pay $20 to give it to a friend or pay $30 for toilet insurance, which means Portia won't come back, and the resident who received the toilet gets to decide where it lands next.
The campaign went live July 14 via Briarwood's Facebook page. As of Wednesday evening, the original post had reached just shy of 6,000 people and raised more than $300. The funds go to the Grand Lake 2021 Walk to End Alzheimer's, which will be held on Sept. 18 at Wright State University-Lake Campus in Celina. Registration starts at 9 a.m., followed by the ceremony at 10 a.m. and the walk at 10:15 a.m.
Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia, is characterized as a "progressive disease beginning with mild memory loss and possibly leading to loss of the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to the environment," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mercer County is part of the northwest Ohio chapter for the Alzheimer's Association, said Pam Myers, program director for the chapter.
"All the programs and services that we do for families and persons living with dementia are free of charge and I think it's really important to share (that) because people like to know what they're raising money for," Myers said.
Right now, in Mercer County, 8,200 people are aged 65 and older and of those people, 525 have dementia, Miller said.
In 2020, 14 Alzheimer's/dementia-related deaths occurred in Mercer County. In 2019 there were 16, in 2017 there were 22 and in 2016, there were 13, according to the Mercer County Health District's annual reports. In 2020, 24 Alzheimer's/dementia-related deaths occurred in Auglaize County. In 2019 there were 17, in 2018 there were 20, in 2017 there were 16 and in 2016 there were 13, according to the Auglaize County Health District's annual report.
The biggest risk factor for getting Alzheimer's is age, according to Myers. People are living longer, so more people are being diagnosed.
"For 2020, there are 220,000 Ohioans aged 65 and older with Alzheimer's. We expect a 13.6 percent increase, so by 2025, there will be a projected 250,000 Ohioans living with Alzheimer's," Myers said. "If people live longer, their chances increase."
In 2019, 5,234 Ohioans died from Alzheimer's, and it is the sixth leading cause of death in the state, according to the 2021 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report. Nationwide, more than six million Americans live with Alzheimer's. By 2050, it's projected to be 13 million people, according to the Alzheimer's Association's website.
With the disease affecting so many people, the costs of care are staggering.
"The cost of caring for those with Alzheimer's or dementia is estimated to be $355 billion this year," Myers said. "That cost would be like your facilities, acute care, ER visits, medications. In 2020, they estimate that there is 590 million hours of unpaid care, which is $9.6 billion dollars of unpaid care. Just think of that, how much it would be costing if you didn't have all of these family and friends caregivers to care for people."
The community response to Portia has been overwhelmingly positive, Miller said. You could say she's on a roll.
Several people have sent private messages to Briarwood on Facebook asking if the purple potty can be delivered to a particular address of people they know, Miller said.
"Right now, it's been to a lot of Briarwood staff members' houses. Some people aren't really caring if people pay for the toilet insurance; they want it to go back to that person's house," Miller said. "She's becoming her own little person."
Not only are people liking the concept and purpose, but they're running with it.
"It's been neat to kind of see the community come together," Miller said. "Some people are getting pretty creative with it. It was delivered to one person's house and she dressed up like an old lady sitting on the toilet, reading the newspaper. (Another person) dressed up like our maintenance man and acted like they were plunging the toilet. I never thought people would have so much fun dressing Portia up or using her as a prop."
Right now, Portia has primarily been in Coldwater and Maria Stein, but Miller hopes the toilet will make its way through most of Mercer County.
Miller hopes to make Portia's jaunt around the county an annual one. Ideally, she wants the toilet to continue its travels through September and make its final stop at the Grand Lake 2021 Walk to End Alzheimer's.
The Northwest Ohio chapter has a caregiver support group that meets the third Friday of every month at 10 a.m. in the Mercer County Senior Center. Additionally, there is a 24/7 helpline (1-800-272-3900) that is available to anyone, including caregivers.
Myers wants to educate as many people as possible. She says people should learn about the disease, either through their research or attending the association's education programs.
"Educate yourself, be aware and don't be afraid to go to the doctor and get things checked out," Myers said. "So many people just brush it off and a lot of the symptoms of Alzheimer's are also symptoms of other things. There might be something else going on that really does need attention."