The Alzheimer’s Association Washington State Chapter is hosting the South Sound Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Tacoma on Sunday, Sept. 16. The event will be held at the University of Puget Sound with registration beginning at 11 a.m. The program starts at 12 p.m. and features a poignant Promise Garden Ceremony honoring people affected by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The two-mile walk begins at 12:30 p.m.
The inspiring event calls on participants of all ages and abilities to join the fight against the disease. Participants have the opportunity to learn more about Alzheimer’s and dementia, advocacy and public policy, clinical studies enrollment and local support programs.
Last year, the South Sound Walk to End Alzheimer’s attracted over 800 participants and raised more than $150,000. The event is one of 600 walks held annually in communities nationwide, raising awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and over $89 million for Alzheimer’s care, support and research programs.
The Washington State Chapter, which serves Washington State and Northern Idaho, will host 16 Walk to End Alzheimer’s events across the region this fall. Funding from the walks are crucial to supporting local community programs for people facing Alzheimer’s or dementia – as well as critical research being done nationally and internationally to find a cure.
“I started participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s as a way to honor my mother who died from Alzheimer’s” says Mari Hagen, a team captain and top fundraiser for the event. Her team, Helen’s Heroes, has raised over $10,000 in the last five years. “But I also want to eradicate Alzheimer’s disease and prevent it from affecting more people and more families in the future.”
An array of programs and services are offered to support people living with the disease, their caregivers and loved ones. There are over a dozen support groups offered in Pierce County, including several especially for family caregivers, people living in the early stages of the disease, and those with younger-onset dementia. The Washington State Chapter also offers a free weekly zoo walk in Tacoma as part of their Early Stage Memory Loss program.
“When my mother was first diagnosed, I contacted the local caregiver support group almost immediately” says Hagen. “It’s very hard for people to understand what you’re going through unless they’ve gone through it. It can leave you feeling helpless and overwhelmed, so the support group was invaluable to me.”
In addition to local services, people can also reach out to the Alzheimer’s Association through a 24/7 helpline (1-800-272-3900) for information, support, care consultation or resources. Their website alz.org is also a wonderful resource and is often a person’s first stop when looking for Alzheimer’s and dementia information, education and support resources.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss serious enough to interfere with daily life. It is a progressive disease that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment.
According to the 2018 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, there are 5.7 million Americans currently living with the disease and that number is expected to increase to 14 million by 2050. In Washington State alone, there are 110,000 people age 65+ living with the disease and another 341,000 unpaid caregivers providing support to their loved ones with dementia.
It is a growing epidemic and public health crisis in the U.S. Between 2000 and 2015, deaths from Alzheimer’s have increased by 123 percent. Alzheimer’s is currently the third leading cause of death in Washington State and the sixth leading cause of death nationally. Among the top 10 leading causes of death, it is the only disease that cannot be cured, prevented or even slowed.
Alzheimer’s is also the most expensive disease in America. In 2018, the direct costs of caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is estimated to be $277 billion. About 67 percent of these costs are borne by Medicare and Medicaid, with about 22 percent or $60 billion in out-of-pocket expenses for individuals and families affected by the disease.
The emotional and financial toll of the disease is devastating our families and our communities. That’s why the Walk to End Alzheimer’s is so important. If you would like to participate or make donation, please visit alz.org/walk or call 1 (800) 272-3900.