Janet Callahan lives in Edmonds, Wash. with her husband and son, “The Nicks,” (also known as Nick and son Nicholas) and their two chubby cats. In January 2020, Janet joined the Alzheimer’s Association Washington State Chapter as The Longest Day Coordinator.
Janet came to the Alzheimer’s Association through “total serendipity.” While attending a Journey Dementia Family Caregiver Conference in November with her father, she happened to find a job posting online for The Longest Day Coordinator at the Washington State Chapter. She admits to spending the rest of the weekend completing the application and submitting it.
Janet’s mother, Mary, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease seven years ago. Mary spent her entire career working as a nurse. She graduated from Sacred Heart School of Nursing of Spokane in 1957. Her career focus for a number of years was geriatric and palliative care. “After years of my mother taking care of her family, staying at the top of her game to be the best nurse possible and doing everything she should have done to ensure a healthy retirement – she developed the very disease she saw in so many of her patients,” said Janet.
Jerry, Janet’s father, has become her mother’s full-time caregiver. “This is not the retirement they thought they would be enjoying, but they still find ways to laugh, even on bad days — like when we were sending out invitations to their 60th wedding anniversary and my mom told my dad to ‘shape up’ if he didn’t want to go solo!” Janet said.
Janet frequently says every journey is different with Alzheimer’s disease. She sees changes happening in her own family: “My mother is losing her independence while my son is fighting for his independence. My mother very willingly gave up driving, but still misses being able to drive when she wants to where she wants. My son is fighting for any opportunity to get behind the wheel and use his driver’s permit. The journey with Alzheimer’s seems to end so much sooner than it should,” she said.
Part of Janet’s job is teaching people what The Longest Day is, as well as helping them get started with fundraising and providing support along the way.
The Longest Day takes place during the month of June, which also happens to be Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month – a time to shine a line on the darkness of Alzheimer’s disease and show support for the millions of people worldwide impacted by dementia. It’s also a time to recognize caregivers for the unwavering support they provide to their loved ones.
“A great way to raise dementia awareness is by participating in The Longest Day, or hosting an event on the summer solstice to honor people living with Alzheimer’s and those who love them,” Janet said.
With family roots in Eastern Washington (shout out to Davenport, Spokane and Grand Coulee) and Northern Idaho (shout out to Lewiston, Genesee and Kendrick), Janet is particularly inspired to ensure The Longest Day is represented and celebrated throughout all counties in Washington and Northern Idaho.
“The event is as unique as you want it to be — plan a fly fishing outing or classes, host a tailgate party at a favorite park, have a craft or game night, organize a group cycle or hiking event, a bonfire at the beach or a wine tasting — anything that you want to do with a group of people to raise funds for the fight against Alzheimer’s disease by doing something you love.”
Prior to joining the Alzheimer’s Association, Janet worked as a business analyst and project manager. She was inspired to transition into the nonprofit sector after helping her nonprofit clients with a cloud-based grant management system she developed. She has a degree from The Evergreen State College and a Certificate in Nonprofit Fundraising from the University of Washington. In addition to her work, Janet also serves as vice president of the local genealogy society, community service officer for her local Boy Scout troop, is on the planning board for the Lynnwood Food Bank and a member of the Edmonds Community College Food Pantry team.
The Longest Day is the day with the most light — the summer solstice. On June 20, people from across the world will come together to fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s through a fundraising activity of their choice. The Longest Day staff and volunteers will be there every step of the way with tools, tips and coaching. Together, the strength of our light will outshine the darkness of Alzheimer’s. Click here to learn more.