By Portia Williams
The Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Cincinnati Chapter raised $29, 718.55 for the 2015 Walk to End Alzheimer’s Disease which began and ended on Market Street in Portsmouth on Saturday.
Paula Kollstedt, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Cincinnati, said she was completely overwhelmed by the level of enthusiasm and commitment of those who came out to support this year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
“It is overwhelming,” Kollstedt said. “Every year the crowds grow, and the spirit, the drive, the commitment increases as well. This disease changes everybody’s life. It affects the person that has the disease, and it affects everybody around them, and people who experience it really understand that.”
Alzheimer’s is now recognized nationally, but at one time was hidden and ignored.
“The nation is beginning to finally recognize it. This disease for a long time was kept in the shadows. People were kept in their homes, instead of being out in the community,” she said. “There has been a lot more understanding and awareness of this disease, and it is really making a difference.”
Some of the participants in the walk held bright colored flowers in their hand, each representing a special meaning. Purple flowers represent those who have loved ones who died with Alzheimer’s disease, blue stands for the persons who have the disease. The yellow flowers represent caregivers that help to take care of someone with Alzheimer’s, and orange represents people who support the cause overall.
“Awareness of this disease has risen to the most feared disease in the nation. No one wants to get this disease, it’s devastating,” Kollstedt said. “A lot of time people think about Alzheimer’s and they relate it to memory loss, but this is so much more, it is a fatal disease.”
It is the sixth leading killer disease in the United States.
“Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading killer in the United States, but the only disease among the top ten with no cure, and not even a way to slow it down.,” she said. “And so, the need for further research for this disease is huge, especially as Baby Boomers move into the danger zone for this disease, which is 65 and up, although you can get it in your 30’s, 40’s, or 50’s, the majority of people get it in their 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. So as the Baby Boomers age, their are just going to be more and more people who get this disease.”
Those some diseases have seen a decrease in number of those affected, the numbers for Alzheimer’s is steadily rising.
“An interesting fact is that over the last decade deaths from cancer, HIV, heart disease have all gone down, thankfully,” Kollstedt said. “Alzheimer’s Disease in that time has gone up 71 percent. There are 5.3 million Americans affected by the disease today, and that number is just going to continue to grow.”
Of all diseases, Alzheimer’s leads the nation as the most expensive.
“It is also the most expensive disease in the nation, that was in the New England Journal of Health last year,” she said. “So if you consider all of the therapies that you have for those other diseases, it is still the most expensive disease. That is beginning to get the attention of our legislators, so if we think we have problems now with 5 million people; the amount of money that is spent on caring for people with this disease which is continuing to grow is infectious.”
Kollstedt has a personal connection to Alzheimer’s, one year ago; she lost her husband who passed away the disease.
“My husband Steve was diagnosed with early on set Alzheimer’s which means before the age of 65, he was diagnosed and that was right at the height of his career, we had a son in high school,” Kollstedt said. “It was just like, this can’t be happening.”
She said their family doctor recommended that she call the Alzheimer’s Association, and her husband went through a series of tests, and was later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
“I did call the Alzheimer’s Association, and they offered a number of free services and programs that helped our entire family throughout the entire trajectory of his disease,” Kollstedt said..
She said she was offered a position left her job with General Electric, to work with the Alzheimer’s Association.
“They approached me about joining them as a director, and I thought would be a great way to make a difference,” she said.
She said she is hopeful that people will continue to become informed about Alzheimer’s and to contribute in whatever way they can to help eradicate this disease which causes so much harm to those affected by it.
To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Cincinnati Chapter, or to make a donation to the cause, visit the website at: www.alz.org/cininnati, or call 800-272-3900 24/7 Helpline.
Reach Portia Williams at 740-353-3101, ext. 1929, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.