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Back and Forth: The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is Sept. 6

Walk to End Alzheimer's

The word "dementia" is a horrible word. The word itself means bad things will worsen. I bring this to light like I did a year ago as Rochester and several other cities in the upper Midwest will be conducting a Walk to End Alzheimer's .

The Rochester Walk is Saturday, Sept. 6, at the University Center Rochester campus off East Circle Drive, located at 851 30th Ave. S.E. Registration is at 9 a.m., with the opening ceremony and walk to follow at 10 a.m. Last year, local walkers raised $52,000. This year's goal is $72,000.

Back to dementia: It's a word used as an umbrella term describing a variety of diseases and conditions that develop when nerve cells in the brain (called neurons) die or no longer function normally. The death or malfunction of neurons will cause changes in one's memory, behavior and ability to think clearly. In Alzheimer's disease, these brain changes eventually impair an individual's ability to carry out such basic bodily functions as walking and swallowing. There may be difficulty in dressing and getting the right shoe on the right foot. Most Alzheimer's patients can recall earlier childhood events but do not remember eating a meal 10 minutes after they've finished.

I live with a wonderful lady who has Alzheimer's. A year ago, our family was featured on the Walk to End Alzheimer's poster. I hesitated to say yes when Debbie Eddy, local director for the southeastern Minnesota Alzheimer's walks, asked us, but I had reason to try to tell the story. My dear June has suffered for several years. This health issue does not get better. And Debbie just told me women are at the epicenter of the Alzheimer's epidemic. Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer's disease are women. Also, there are more than two and one-half more women than men providing intensive "on duty" care 24 hours a day for someone with Alzheimer's.

More than 60 percent of Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers are women. In her 60s, a woman's estimated lifetime risk for developing Alzheimer's Disease is one in six. For breast cancer, it is one in 11. Here at Shorewood Senior Campus, June and I have lived for the past two-and-a-half years. I've seen the obituaries of at least 10 people here in the memory care or "Reflections" area, as it's called. The staff and management provide excellent care whether in independent, assisted living or memory care areas.


If a member in your family is showing signs of memory loss, have them tested and get on a waiting list. There are several facilities in Rochester and southwestern Minnesota offering these services, and more are under construction with waiting lists.

Everyone has a reason to end Alzheimer's. Folks ask me "why are you there?" I reply "the marriage vows I took 55 years ago included 'for better or worse ... until death do us part.'" We eat together in the Reflections dining room, where there are three male residents and 10 females with different levels of dementia, such as Lewy body or Parkinson's or Alzheimer's. I look at these people and realize these folks were once doctors, nurses, a judge, IBM programmers, teachers, homemakers, a pilot and were once intelligent individuals with great brains. And I ask, "Why?"

Each walk is PERSONAL. We walk on behalf of our families and friends, who are among the more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer's disease and their 15 million caregivers. We walk to raise funds for research because dementia is increasing health-care costs and crippling Medicare. We walk for future generations so they may never know the devastation of Alzheimer's.

Start a team. Join a team. Register today at alz.org/walk, or call 289-3950. There are five walks on five Saturdays starting with Rochester's walk Sept. 6. In Mankato, the walk is Sept. 13 at Sibley Park Pavilion. In Red Wing at Colvill Park, it's Sept. 20. Winona's Walk is Sept. 27 at the Jaycee Shelter, and in Owatonna on Oct. 4, it's at Mineral Springs Park Pavilion.

In 2013, the five walks raised $204,000.

All "walks" become so very personal. Another very close to my heart is the ALS Walk, also on Sept. 6, at Soldier's Memorial Field.

Next week: Sept. 5 is the kickoff to United Way of Olmsted County's Be the Change campaign and Marigold Days in Mantorville.

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