A field of colorful wildflowers greeted patrons of this Saturday’s A Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Port Warwick. Each color represented someone in the fight for Alzheimer’s research: orange for supporters, yellow for caretakers, purple for those who lost the fight, and blue for victims of the disease.
A Walk to End Alzheimer is the American Alzheimer’s Association’s signature annual event to raise money for Alzheimer research .
“There are over 600 walks throughout the country,” said Altschuler, who serves as Chair for the Peninsula’s Walk each year. We are part of the Southeastern Virginia chapter, which is in Norfolk. There’s six walks, and our walk is the Peninsula Walk .”
Altschuler began researching Alzheimer’s with the Association six years ago. Shortly after, her own mother was diagnosed.
She said that watching her mother’s condition worsen was heartbreaking.
She recalled, “It’s devastating because your own mother doesn’t know who you are. My mom couldn’t dress herself, didn’t know how to do the things we take for granted, like brushing your teeth. She would take her tooth brush and brush her hair with it. I mean, not remembering how to use a utensil to feed herself, not remembering where the clothing parts go. I mean, we all know you put your pants on your legs. Well, she didn’t.”
Identifiable causes of Alzheimer’s are unknown, though researchers have gathered enough to understand that it begins as a result of failing brain cells that, most likely, die due to multiple factors.
Scientists have discovered that risk increases with age; Elderly over age 85 face nearly a 50% chance of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Genetics play a significant role. Though researchers have not identified a specific causal gene, they do know which cause the most risk.
This year, the chapter’s efforts before and during the walk made fundraising history, raising more than $200,000 for Alzheimer’s research with Altschuler’s own network raising the most this year.
But money is hardly the only concern, said Gino Columbaro, Executive Director of the SEVA Alzheimer’s Association. Saturday was about the people of Alzheimer’s.
“I want people to know us,” he said. “this is my P.S.A: If you’re dealing with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, the Alzheimer’s Association is here to help you. You can call us at 800-272-3900. You can also go to our website at www.alz.org/seva. You do not have to navigate the maze of Alzheimer’s disease alone.”
“After six years of doing this,” said Altschuler, “people are not longer whispering that they have a mother, a father, a brother with Alzheimer’s. And with people speaking out, that’s how we’ll find a cure.