Misplacing car keys, forgetting an item on a grocery list or simply forgetting someone’s name is commonplace. In between the hustle and bustle of daily life, some information just falls through the cracks. But, what if the occasional memory slip occurs regularly?
For the estimated 5.4 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, the forgetfulness occurs all the time. Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia, a debilitating, progressive disorder that disrupts memory, thinking, and cognitive behavior. Although the majority of people living with the disease are 65 and older, Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging. In an effort to raise awareness and collect funds for research, the Alzheimer’s Association of Southern Minnesota is inviting everyone in Winona to Go Purple and participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Saturday, September 29.
Throughout the last six months, the Alzheimer’s Association Southern Minnesota’s Community Engagement Manager Debbie Eddy and her team of volunteers have been hard at work preparing for the upcoming walk. The event is an opportunity for volunteers, association staff, and walkers to support each other in the fight against this debilitating disease.
“By 2050 this will be a pandemic with more than 11 million people age 65 and older having Alzheimer's,” Eddy said. “By spreading the word now, an early diagnosis can offer time to understand the illness, ask questions and learn about changes that may be a part of the disease process.”
Currently, the Alzheimer’s Association is conducting more than 100 research studies pertaining to dementia. With the enactment of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act last year, the first-ever framework for a national strategic plan to address the crisis is in place. However, researchers have yet to find a cure.
“A successful prevention or intervention program receives about $448 million in National Institutes of Health research funding, as opposed to cancer or AIDS that receives between $3 and 5 billion in funds,” Eddy said. “We have a big job to do and I want to be a part of that.”
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the nation’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for the association, and in Minnesota, thousands of participants come out for one of the 14 events throughout September. Teams are formed, which then raise funds from team sponsors.
“The money raised by the walks held nationally and locally provides funding for, of course, research,” Eddy said. “But even more importantly, it provides for core programs and services for families with loved ones who have the disease, and provides those who are diagnosed with the disease with support groups, care consultations, safety services, and more.”
The event is more than just a walk to those who have personal ties to the disease. More than 97 percent of participants are active within the organization because a friend, family member, or colleague has or had the disease. Eddy, one of many who have lost a loved one, recalls watching her grandfather and grandmother succumb to the disease.
“I watched two extremely exuberant and loving people be stripped of their memories, and eventually incapacitated,” Eddy said. “My grandfather was a decorated war hero from World War II and he couldn't remember why.”
Although the memories of seeing the disease progress are painful, they are what drive teams to stand up and fight for a cure. Those loved ones are remembered not only throughout the walk, but during a ceremony that celebrates their lives with various colored flowers—one for those who have the disease, one for those who have died from the disease, and another for caregivers of those with Alzheimer's disease.
Several members of the Winona Clown Club will be on hand Saturday to make balloon animals and fill the event with cheer. Lisa Ziebell and her team of Zumba dancers from Z-Studio will invigorate participants with a short Zumba class. Refreshments and food will be served prior to the start of the walk, and walkers are encouraged to take a flower home in remembrance of their friends or family members who have or had the disease.
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is Saturday, September 29, at Hiawatha Valley Marine Shelter at the Lake Park Complex. Registration is at 8 a.m. and the walk begins at 9 a.m.
Teams already signed up are to bring all cash donations to the walk for collection and to trade in for a shirt commemorating the walk. For those planning to register on the day of the walk, a donation of $100 is required for an official shirt.
For more information about the Walk to End Alzheimer’s visit the website.