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Taking steps for a cause
Alzheimer’s memory walk raises awareness, funds to combat disease.
The pitter-patter of raindrops and footsteps slapping cement marked the beginning of the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk at Silverdale Waterfront Park on Sept. 20.
More than 300 supporters attended the event, walking either 1.2 miles or 3 miles to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s, a disease more prevalent today than ever before.
“It is neat to see so many people out doing the walk,” said Dick Lundgren, who is a longtime advocate of Alzheimer’s awareness, before the walk started.
Lundgren, whose 63-year-old wife has the disease, has been a member of the South Sound Memory Walk Committee and attended other memory walks around the state.
Like each attendee on Saturday, Lundgren walked for a cause: To support those who have — and are affected by — Alzheimer’s and other memory-loss diseases.
“We have to be the voice for people with Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.
Lundgren said the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s will increase by 81 percent in the next 20 years, meaning support from the local, state, private as well as federal level is crucial in spreading awareness and, eventually, finding a cure.
Most who walked Saturday are caregivers themselves.
“Caregivers need to group together,” said Robin Murphy, whose 90-year-old mother has dementia and lives in an assisted living memory care community in Silverdale. “Caring for people with memory loss is not easy.”
Those challenges begin with acceptance, understanding the disease, separating the disease from the person who has it and joining support groups to spread education and awareness.
“People need to be more aware and more proactive,” Murphy said.
The Alzheim-er’s Association “is dedicated to finding prevention methods, treatments and an eventual cure for Alzheimer’s” and donations made for Saturday’s walk totaled more than $40,000, according to its Web site.
“I’d say it was a day of solidarity because everybody there supported the Alzheimer’s Association,” Murphy said. “It was wonderful.”
Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, the Web site reported, and someone is diagnosed with the disease every 71 seconds.
Lundgren said local Alzheimer’s chapters will continue to champion awareness and education in 2009, looking to the Legislature for help. There are no dementia-specific training requirements for long-term caregivers in Washington state, but Lundgren believes that number needs to change to eight hours.
“We need to have that,” he said.
The Legislature boosted rested care services by 12 percent and provided $1.76 million in behavioral intervention training for health, family and senior homes in 2008, Lundgren added.