Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

September 16, 2013

Garden of hope keeps growing

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — Though the Walk to End Alzheimer’s wasn’t a timed event, it was more than just a fundraiser.

“It builds up recognition of Alzheimer’s and dementia,” said Patti Hanna, the walk chair for the event taking place in Ottumwa early Saturday.

As more than 100 people began their walk, a D.J. blasted songs like “Walking on Sunshine,” and “Life is a Highway.”

There was a lot of purple, too. Purple T-shirts on the walkers, purple balloons, even a purple leash and collar on a participant’s dog.

Hanna said the walk has grown each year. There were 17 teams, with 5-10 participants each. Many had encountered some personal experience with the disease, which, among other symptoms, can rob patients of their short- or mid-term memories, and effect their ability to live independently.

Amanda Konrad said her middle-school aged daughter lost her Grandma Jane, who had Alzheimer’s toward the end of her life. Since then, the girl has been volunteering, and even got some friends involved in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

“Here come The Walking Tacos,” said Mom, sounding proud of the team as she watched her daughter and four other girls come across the finish line.

“My dad passed away with Alzheimer’s,” said Mary Staton, 73 of Ottumwa.

She suspects that the disorder may be starting to effect her: She noticed that her doctor has her on an extra medication, for one thing.

For another, she said, “My children are noticing I’m starting to forget.”

She feels that if this is Alzheimer’s, and if it gets worse, she’ll find more support at home than her father had.

“My mother did not know how to deal with it --- at all.”

She said her children are more knowledgeable about the disease, and likely to be more patient. Several of them, as well as friends from Cedar Rapids, were in Ottumwa at Saturday’s event

The residents of Wapello County aren’t alone in their concern, or in their efforts to fight the disease.

“Nationwide, hundreds of communities Walk to End Alzheimer’s,” said Michelle Kellman, regional director of Alzheimer’s Association.

The association does more than sponsor a walk.

“We are here to help the community,” said Hanna, “with services, education and programs that help pay for different aspects of Alzheimer’s.”

It’s not just the patients who can use the services.

“There are support groups that help the caregivers, where they can bounce questions off each other,” she said. “And there’s the 24 hour hotline. So if you’re having [a challenge] with your loved one at 3 o’clock in the morning, you can call.”

So what would Kellman tell the public?

“We need their help. Through donations, volunteering, advocacy and spreading awareness.”

To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark