For Stephanie Gamblin, life took a permanent turn on her way to a wedding eight years ago.
She was chauffeuring her parents and relying on getting instructions from her father, who had driven the route five days a week for 20 years. She turned to him and asked which way to go.
"He said, 'I don't know. I haven't been on this road in a long time,'" Gamblin said. "For me that was really odd, because he knew how to get to this town. Nothing was looking familiar to him at all."
Her father, Tommy Hunt, was showing early signs of Alzheimer's disease, a progressive neurologic disease that leads to dementia. He was 62.
Now Gamblin, a staff associate for facilities management for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture in Princeton, is helping lead the drive to get a Kentucky license plate for Alzheimer's research. The license plate itself is $25 and covers only the cost of production. If you want to donate an additional $10 or more to disease research, you pay that when you pick up the plate at the county clerk's office.
The plate is lavender with a forget-me-not and the words "Honor. Remember. Care. End Alzheimer's."
To produce the plate, 900 applications accompanied by $25 checks are required. Ellen Kershaw, vice president for public policy for the Alzheimer's Associations Greater Kentucky/Southern Indiana chapter, said 180 applications have been received.
Gamblin contacted the Alzheimer's chapter in spring 2010 with the idea. The organization worked with the state to design a plate that would be acceptable. Purple is the color associated with the Alzheimer's Association, and a forget-me-not is symbolic of overcoming the disease's devastating effects.
Gamblin said her work with the license plate helps her feel closer to her father, who now lives in a nursing home.
"Being as I can't do anything to cure him, I'm trying to look at avenues to support the association and raise money," she said.
Although her father is physically well, he needs a lot of guidance in achieving simple routines, Gamblin said.
"It may seem simple to somebody, the things he does, but it's not," she said. "I almost have to act things out at times."
Having the plates would raise awareness of the disease, which will become more prevalent as Kentucky's population ages, said Kershaw.
"Eighty thousand people in Kentucky right now have Alzheimer's disease," she said. "That number is only going to grow."