Empowering Communities

Fighting Alzheimer’s One Step at a Time

September 14, 2017

Like many couples, Frank and Julia Imber had each other’s backs.

“When mom forgot something, or couldn’t remember something, my dad would cover for her,” recalls Fran Fleming, a senior rate analyst at ComEd. “He’d say, ‘Mom is just preoccupied.’ He did that for a couple of years.”

Frank took care of his wife as her memory worsened. When he unexpectedly died in 1995, Fran and her siblings stepped in and realized that their mother couldn’t live alone. Besides her memory loss, she was slowly losing her ability to speak.

“I started to notice something was wrong with mom before dad died, and the doctors diagnosed her with dementia of an Alzheimer’s type,” Fran says, adding that Alzheimer’s disease wasn’t as well-known as it is now.

The family eventually moved her mother to a skilled care nursing home with a secure memory care unit.

“The caregivers are the unsung heroes,” Fran says. “They touched all of our lives. They really helped mom and all of us for the five years she lived there.”

Her mother died in 2000.

“Before my mom died, I didn’t know anything about the Alzheimer’s Association and the resources out there,” Fran says.

In 2001, Fran’s oldest daughter, Therese, asked if the family could walk in the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk ‘for grandma.’ Fran and her husband, Ed, and daughters Therese, Katie and Patricia have been walking ever since in what is now known as the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

In 2009, Fran gathered her colleagues to form a team and join her. Team ComEd/Exelon Family and Friends now numbers more than 100 strong and raises thousands of dollars each year.

ComEd has been an annual sponsor since 2009 and is contributing $10,000 as a premier sponsor this year. The walk will take place in Naperville on Sunday, Sept. 17. Not including the corporate donation, the ComEd/Exelon team is one of the top fundraising teams for the Naperville Walk each year.

“One of the things I’ve heard said about this disease is that ‘There are two types of people in the world: those who have experienced it, and those who will,’” Fran says.

She’s working to decrease that number one step at a time.