Public is invited to walk-up to Alzheimer’s prevention party
Ray Freer watched Mary, his wife of 53 years, fall into the throes of Alzheimer’s disease over the past decade.
“The true tragedy and emotional hurt occurs when you see a formerly vibrant person descend into oblivion,” Ray, a Park City resident, said. “Initially, the afflicted person can pretty much participate in normal activities. When it reaches the advanced stage, the person cannot dress or bathe (themselves), and usually requires assistance with eating.”
Mary died from complications of Alzheimer’s and cancer last week, and Freer, the co-chari of the the Alzheimer’s Association’s upcoming Walk to End Alzheimer’s, wants to make sure people know about the disease.
Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death for Americans was diagnosed in at least 5.7 million in 2018, according to a report by the Alzheimer’s Association. 31,000 Utahns had the disease in in 2018, according to the report.
To help raise awareness and engage the community in the prevention of the disease, the Alzheimer’s Association Utah Chapter will host their Wasatch Back/Park City Walk to End Alzheimer’s on August 24.
Organizers of the walk will host a series of monthly events that will lead up to the walk. The first is a volunteer kick-off party that will be held from 5:30-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 20, at Jeremy Ranch Golf Club, 8770 Jeremy Rd.
The free event will feature catered food, drinks, information on the disease and a presentation by Ronnie Daniel, head of the Alzheimer’s Association Utah Salt Lake branch, said event chair Debbie Morton.
“Ronnie will give an overview of what the Alzheimer’s Association does,” she said. “They want to get into the community more, so he will also recruit volunteers during the evening.”
The Alzheimer’s Association is the largest nonprofit fundraiser for Alzheimer’s research, and the organization continues to raise awareness and support prevention, the discovery new treatments and cure of Alzheimer’s Disease, according to its mission statement.
Volunteers will also be recruited to help with the upcoming walk, Morton said.
“They can come and meet the planning committee,” she said. “We’ll have sign-up sheets for anyone who wants to join a committee or volunteer.”
Past participants are also invited to the party, said Freer.
This year’s two-mile walk will start at the Basin Recreation Fieldhouse at Newpark, follow the trail to the Wallin Barn on S.R. 224 and return, he said.
“The Wasatch Back/Park City walk produces nearly one-quarter of all of the funds generated by eight different walks that are held in Utah,” he said.
As Freer took care of his wife, he learned it takes an average of five to seven years for mild stage dementia to progress to advanced stage dementia.
“At that stage, the patient also becomes disoriented in regards to environment, time and personal interaction with friends and family,” he said. “(They) also become agitated, disinhibited, physically weak and lose coordination and balance.”
Alzheimer’s also affects the people around the patient, Morton added.
More than 16.1 million people in the U.S. provide unpaid care for their friends and family members who have Alzheimer’s, according to the Alsheimer’s Association.
Those caregivers give an estimated 18.2 billion hours of care that valued more than $230 billion, and of those caregivers, 35 percent reported that their health has gotten worse due to the weight of caregiving responsibilities, according to the report.
“So there is a chance that you or someone you know has been affected by Alzheimer’s,” Morton. “That’s why we are hosting the walk and these other events.”
An earlier version of this story misstated the event’s date as Saturday, Feb. 20. The correct date is Wednesday, Feb. 20.
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