Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Walk to End Alzheimer's

Nana and Papa 2001.

  Late last summer I stumbled upon a fundraiser I wanted to participate in: The Walk to End Alzheimer's. I wanted to put a team together, of family members and friends, raise money to help put an end to the wide-reaching disease, and walk in honor of Papa.

  Since I was to be back in France in mid-August, and wouldn't be around for the walk in September, it didn't happen. Not in 2012 anyway.

  But I made note of the annual event, and here we are again, looking at the Walk to End Alzheimer's (the Portland edition) coming up on September 8th.

Papa and Sadie 2006.
  The Alzheimer's Association's Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the nation’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. It's held annually in more than 600 communities across the US.

  Many of us, my family included, have lost a loved one far too soon because of Alzheimer's.

What is Alzheimer's?
  Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia (a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious
enough to interfere with daily life), and accounts for 50-80% of
Papa and Stella 2005.
all dementia cases.

  It's a progressive disease, where symptoms gradually worsen over time. The difficulty with Alzheimer's is that our loved ones are taken from us in mind, long before they're taken in body. Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and sufferers live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others, but survival can range from four to 20 years, depending on age and other health conditions.

  Alzheimer's is not a normal part of aging, though the greatest risk factor is increasing age.

Nana and Papa on their anniversary in 2009.
  Currently, Alzheimer's has no cure, but treatments for symptoms are available and research continues. Current Alzheimer's treatments cannot stop Alzheimer's from progressing, they can temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms and improve quality of life for those with Alzheimer's, and their loved-ones and caregivers. 

  And though support groups (which can be found through your local hospital), as my grandma explained are helpful, and extremely beneficial, it should be noted that no two cases are the same. 

  Today, there is a worldwide effort under way to find better ways to treat the disease, delay its onset, and prevent it from developing.
The Dresslers 2001.

  Which is where the Walk to End Alzheimer's comes into play.

Alzheimer's and My Family
  Various health complications over the years led to Papa's bout with Alzheimer's. Nana first noted a decline in short term memory after his brain bleed in 1998. 

  That's when 'the Long Goodbye' began.

  What started out as 'Papa's bad memory' progressed to Sundowners syndrome, and over time into the disease we lost Papa in 2009. Because of it's variety, doctors termed it vascular dementia.

Thanksgiving 2003.
  Alzheimer's was a difficult disease to watch progress, even from a distance. Not only did it affect Papa, it affected everyone who loved him. 

  For roughly 12 years, Alzheimer's took its toll on Papa, and Nana, on a daily basis. My grandparents were married for 63 years, and they were together at every turn. Nana lovingly and loyally saw Papa through his bout with Alzheimer's (with the amazing help of some special care-givers at the Gardens in Forest Grove).

  While his last several years might be my most recent memories -- Papa stricken with Alzheimer's. The memories I treasure, and remember the most are: stealing his comb out of his back pocket (his white hair was always perfectly combed), playing catch with him, having him in the stands of my many sporting events, going out to his garden (and even eating the veggies that came from it -- I knew I had to at least try it if it was 'from Papa's garden'), frequent trips to DQ for a peanut buster parfait (for him) and a blizzard (for me), family vacations to the Oregon Coast, and of course, hearing the story (or was it stories?) of his lost index finger.

Hanging in Papa's garden with my cousin Robbie.
  Those are the memories of Papa I keep close.

   Unfortunately, Alzheimer's took Papa from us too soon. My hope, with the help of fundraisers like the Walk to End Alzheimer's and other efforts, research will continue, and Alzheimer's will cease affecting the lives of our loved ones.

The Walk's History
  In 1989, the first Memory Walk took place, with nine Alzheimer’s Association chapters raising $149,000 from 1249 participants.  By 1993, Memory Walk had grown into a nationwide event and raised $4.5 million at 167 locations.

  More than 39,000 teams participated in 2011 in 650 walks across the country, raising more than $47.2 million. The Alzheimer’s Association leads the way in the fight against the disease.

What is the Walk to End Alzheimer's?

Our Effort
  If you're in the Portland area this September 8th, please come join us at Portland International Raceway for the Walk to End Alzheimer's! I'm still learning more about the event, but will be posting updates and details as they become available.

  The walk is free to participate in. But even if you can't join us, my family's team -- Papa's Team, would love a donation on Papa's behalf. 

  Visit our team page for more information on the walk, donating, and event details. If you're outside the Portland area, you can even check to see if there's a walk coming up in your neck of the woods!

Event Details

2013 Walk to End Alzheimer's Portland, OR
Date: Sunday, September 8, 2013
Location: Portland International Raceway
1940 North Victory Boulevard
Portland, OR 97217
Coordinator: Kara Busick
Phone: 503-416-0209


  1. Papa would be so proud...he was a doer, not just a talker and you are following in his footsteps in such a beautiful way!
    June and I are having our 40th wedding anniversary on the 8th but I'll bet we can celebrate on the 7th and join you for the walk! I'll see what she thinks about that - somehow we'll be part of Papa's Team!
    With love and appreciation,
    Uncle Rob

    1. When I heard your anniversary (your 40th at that!) was on the 8th, I wasn't expecting you guys to be able to make it. But I was sure hoping, and still am, that you'd be able to!

      We'll do our best to make Papa proud. :)