Wasatch Back invited to Walk to End Alzheimer’s
Second annual event will be Sept. 9
The Alzheimer’s Association Utah Chapter hosted its first Walk to End Alzheimer’s in the Wasatch Back last year.
The two-mile route started and finished at the Swaner EcoCenter, and Laura Wall, Alzheimer’s Association Utah Chapter development director, said there was a wonderful turnout.
“Last year was our first walk in the Wasatch Back in Park City, and it was amazing to see the output of support,” Wall said during an interview with The Park Record. “We had about 250 people registered, but hundreds more showed up. We were overwhelmed.”
Wall hopes to see the same enthusiasm during this year’s walk that will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Sept. 9. The route, which will start at the Swaner EcoCenter, will be the same as last year’s, and wind up to the Wallin Barn on S.R. 224, before circling back to the Newpark plaza.
“People walk alone or walk in a team,” Wall said. “They can raise money, but they can also just come and support the walk.”
Walkers will receive different colored flowers to honor those affected by the disease.
“The colors represent who has lost a loved one from Alzheimer’s, who are caregivers and who has Alzheimer’s,” Wall said.
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide, and is the largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research, Wall said.
“Alzheimer’s is epidemic, and it’s going to get worse as our Baby Boomers age into it,” she said.
Age is the No. 1 risk factor for the disease.
One out of 10 people age 65 or older will have Alzheimer’s or dementia, and one out of three age 85 or older will die from Alzheimer’s or dementia, according to Wall.
“It’s the No. 6 cause of death in the United States, and is the only cause of death in the Top 10 that has no prevention, no cure or a way to slow it down,” she said. “Before I started working with Alzheimer’s patients, I always thought it was a fact of life. It’s not. It’s a disease like cancer is a disease. It’s an active disease that kills the brain, and it’s not a normal part of aging. That’s terrifying.”
The only hope to slow down or stop Alzheimer’s Disease is research.
“This is the whole point of the walk,” Wall said. “We’re not only raising funds, which is a critical part of what we do. We’re also raising awareness and bashing down stigma, because no one needs to be ashamed of Alzheimer’s.
“In the past, when grandpa or grandma would do something strange, we would say, ‘Oh, he’s just tired’ or ‘He needs his medication,’” Wall said. “We wouldn’t put a name to it. Now, we are shouting it as loud as we can because people have to pay attention.”
Still, with the recent surge in awareness, people still have a hard time saying “I have Alzheimer’s,” Wall said.
“People will fight it because it’s a terrible diagnosis,” she said. “But like breast cancer today, it’s starting to come out of the woods, and we’ve been in the woods for such a long time.”
Caregivers or soon-to-be caregivers are usually the first to acknowledge a friend or family member has the disease.
“They are the first ones who notice little things like forgetfulness,” Wall said. “They are also the first ones who need support.”
Ray Freer, the spokesman for the Wasatch Back/Park City Walk to End Alzheimer’s, has been taking care of his wife Mary.
“She has advance-stage dementia and will go into some kind of institutional care facility within the next six months,” Freer said.
The Freers have been married for 51 years, and dealing with Alzheimer’s has been an eight- to 10-year odyssey for Freer.
“I say between eight to 10 years, because I didn’t know when the onset occurred,” he said. “It goes from mild cognitive impairment, where you lose facets of your memory to where you can’t speak.”
Seeing a loved one suffer from Alzheimer’s is heartbreaking, Freer said.
“As caregivers, you witness the deterioration of a person over time,” he said.
Also, the burden of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient takes a toll on the family, and on the community.
“It takes an average of three people to take care of every one Alzheimer’s patient,” Feeer said. “That’s taking three people, including the patient, out of the community workforce.”
In addition, Alzheimer’s care is expensive.
More than $260 billion a is needed to take care of known patients that have been diagnosed, and that total is going to increase to $1 trillion over the course of the next 15 years, Freer said.
“That is a staggering amount of money, which represents about 30 to 40 percent of Medicare funding,” he said.
Access to the money is also a problem, Wall said.
“The laws regarding getting help are difficult.” she said. “If you want to have Medicaid help, you need to run through your money, your spouse’s money and your kids’ money before it kicks in.
“That’s not what we want. We have to change those laws. We need Medicaid to pay for in-home care.”
The Alzheimer’s Association is here to help caregivers and patients maneuver the hoops, and offer them some resources.
“People and families of people who are diagnosed need someone to talk with because there is a finite amount of time to figure out what the patients want to do with their end-of-life plans while they still can communicate,” Wall said. “We have resources that can help caregivers and patients. This walk is to let people know we are here to help them.”
The Wasatch Back/Park City Walk to End Alzheimer’s will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Sept. 9. The two-mile route will start at the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter. The money raised will fund research and fund programs for caregivers in Utah. To register, visit http://www.alz.org/walk.
Paintings by Cara Jean Means shows the trails and hope of those who deal with anxiety and depression