Every day, Diane Wood remembers why she chose to help raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease.
“My own personal connection is a great aunt who I took care of that didn’t have children,” said Wood, director of programs for the Alzheimer’s Association in Oklahoma.
“I was the primary caregiver. I took care of legal issues, financial issues, getting her qualified for Medicaid and qualified to go into a nursing home. Because she became fragile physically, emotionally and because of what the disease did to her, I was her advocate. My aunt had an impact on my life, and it was important to me to give back to her,” Wood said.
“Even though it is age-related and it does affect memory, just to watch a person who you knew to be very capable, accomplished and educated go back in time and whittle away, losing their dignity, is a hard thing to process.”
On Sept. 27, Wood and thousands of other Oklahomans will take a two-mile walk to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s.
The Oklahoma City chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association holds the Walk to End Alzheimer’s as an annual effort that also raises funds for care, support and research.
The event, in its eighth year, will begin at 8:30 a.m. in Bricktown.
“It’s a time for people to come to gather to remember those we have lost,” said Colin McEwen, walk coordinator. “It’s also a time to educate people about the disease and what we’re doing to combat the disease. It’s the sixth-leading case of death in this country, and unfortunately, each year that number keeps going up.”
The organization works to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health, and to provide and enhance care and support for people affected.
As a whole, the U.S. spends more than $220 billion a year on medical expenses and caregiving alone, McEwen said.
“All the major causes of death, such as heart disease and cancer, have all declined in previous years,” McEwen said.
“Alzheimer’s is the only one in the top 10 that has increased. If we don’t get the dollars we need to do the research, then it is really going to put a huge strain on not just our families, but also our government and medical care system to pay for this.”
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s also aims to unite communities. The two-mile walk will begin at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
Wood said many who work with the association have a personal connection to the disease, but “it’s important to host this event because it lets us make the general public know that we exist.”
“A lot of times, we get people who say, ‘We never knew you guys existed,’” Wood said. “They say, ‘I wish I had known you guys existed three years ago while I was taking care of mom.’ A lot of this is an awareness piece, as well as a fundraiser for disease research, programs and services.”
The association’s national office is in Chicago; the state headquarters is in Tulsa.
IF YOU GO
2014 Walk to End AlzHeimer’s