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Never forget

Alzheimer’s walk will raise awareness of nation’s 6th leading cause of death

September 23, 2012
By JOE SUTTER, , Messenger News

Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. It's the only disease in the top 10 with no way to cure, prevent or slow its progression.

In America, someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer's every 68 seconds, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

On Oct. 6 the Walk to End Alzheimer's will raise money and awareness to help people dealing with the disease, and for research to end it.

The walk is a chance for all kinds of people affected by the disease to come together, said Program and Event Coordinator Amy Von Bank.

"Alzheimer's affects everyone, so they're from small children to senior citizens. Some come out to the walk in a wheelchair. We have family caregivers, we have people with the disease, people who work in care facilities, and a lot of volunteers."

The Alzheimer's Association holds these walks nationwide every September, Von Bank said. Last year, 300 people walked in Fort Dodge; 40,000 teams participated nationwide.

Fact Box

If you go

Walk to End Alzheimer's

WHAT: 2.5 mile walk from Iowa Central Community College to Friendship Haven townhomes

WHEN: Registration, 9 a.m.; walk starts at 10 a.m. Oct. 6

WHERE: Career Education Building, Iowa Central Community College

REGISTRATION: Visit or contact Amy Von Bank, 576-4884 or

Annual Caregiver's Conference

WHEN: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 16

WHERE: Decker Auditorium, Iowa Central Community College

PRE-REGISTRATION is required by Wednesday. Call (800) 362-2793, ext. 1320.

COST: Free for senior citizens and family members caring for someone with the disease. Professional caregivers will pay $75 and earn six CEUs. For more information visit

The walk will begin at the Career Education Building at Iowa Central Community College. It will continue around the campus and then to the townhomes at Friendship Haven. The walk is 2.5 miles, but Von Bank said a shorter walk is available for those who can't go that far.

The walk's sponsors will have informational booths.

"We have a beautiful ceremony called our promise garden," Von Bank said. "Participants that raise money will be given a flower, and the different colors mean different things. There's one for caretakers, one that means you have the disease, one for volunteers. It's a moving tribute to those who have suffered."

Walk leader

The walk is led every year by Dick Whitcome, who rides a two-person tricycle. Whitcome's wife has the disease.

Whitcome explained how the association helps those affected by the disease.

"They have monthly meetings for caregivers. They get together and share experiences," he said. "They provide moral support to each other. The association provides a lot of reading material."

It's important to raise awareness of the Alzheimer's problem, he said.

"More and more people are getting the disease. Younger people are getting the disease. We just want to make people aware of what's happening.

"They say 50 percent of people over 80 have a good chance of getting Alzheimer's," he said.

Von Bank said the problem is getting worse as the American population grows older.

"As the baby boomers age, we're looking at somebody being diagnosed with Alzheimer's every 33 seconds. Currently it's every 68 seconds," she said.

The goal for this year's walk is to raise $26,000, although they'd like to raise more. Almost half of that amount has been raised, according to the association's website.

The money will help fund research that's going on all over the world, she said. It will also help the association continue to offer free services to families, caregivers and those who have the disease.

"We have support groups, resources, information, a lending library, a toll-free 24-hour-a-day 7-day a week hotline," she said.

Right now, one focus in Alzheimer's treatment is early diagnosis.

"We're encouraging people to be more proactive in their screenings, for doctors and patients to start looking for the signs earlier. We're also working on more testing to define the markers earlier."

Caregivers Conference

The annual Caregivers Conference will be held on Oct. 16, and is another way the association supports those affected.

"For many, this is lifeline, to learn how to interact with the patient," said Von Bank. "To better understand the disease, to know how to handle situations as they come up.

"Right now, just in Iowa alone, we have 144,000 people providing unpaid care for family members. That's why we focus on providing as much support as possible for caregivers. At certain stages in the disease, I think this is harder on those around the person. Many have to quit their jobs to provide care for a family member."

The conference is free to senior citizens and family members caring for someone with the disease.

Speakers include local nurse Sheila Hefley, who Von Bank said is on the "front line" of Alzheimer's care, and dementia expert Teepa Snow.

"Teepa is fantastic. She has 35 years of experience dealing with dementia. She is hands-on, and she really works at a positive approach to caregiving and working with the families," said Von Bank.



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