The Wyoming Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association on Saturday will sponsor the annual Natrona County Walk to End Alzheimer's to raise awareness and fight the disease that robs people of their memories, ability to speak and eventually their lives

Unlike previous years' events, this one will not happen on a specific route due to COVID-19 restrictions, but rather on sidewalks, tracks and trails occur on sidewalks, tracks and trails as participants walk as individuals, families or small teams, said the state chapter executive director Janet Lewis.

The event will begin at 10:30 a.m. in front of the Wyoming Medical Center, 1233 E 2nd St., with local speakers and the electronic presentations -- to smart phones, tablets and computers -- of "promise flowers" for those who may have Alzheimer's, caregvers and those who have lost loved ones to the disease.

Instead of distributing promise flowers directly to people the organizers of the walk will feature a Promise Garden display for viewing in front of the hospital, Lewis said.

The walk itself begins at 11 a.m.

Last year, about 250 participants raised about $32,000. Ten percent of that went to the national Alzheimer’s Association for research, and the rest stays in Wyoming for education, lobbying, and support for care givers, she said.

Lewis does not expect that much to be raised this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, she added.

She explained how Alzheimer's is the largest of a group -- about 70% -- of dementia-related diseases.

"It primarily affects the memory, but as time goes on, and the disease progresses it also affects speech and language, vision," Lewis said.

"It also affects, problem-solving and judgment and eventually as it progresses it will affect physical functions that are controlled by the brain like heart beat and breathing -- and that's why it's a fatal disease," she said.

There is no cure.

And sometimes there is little hope and support, said Lewis, who has lost four family members to Alzheimer's.

"The hardest part for me is that you lose the person before they pass away," she said. "So you really go through the grieving process twice."

The patient disintegrates, they don't remember their family members and their friends, they don't remember their past, and they lose basic personal care skills such as brushing their teeth or dressing themselves, Lewis said.

"This is a brutal disease for caregivers," Lewis said. Most caregivers are women and the caring can take all their waking hours, she added.

Lewis outlined some of the facts of Alzheimer's in Wyoming and elsewhere

  • 10,000 live with the disease in the state.
  • That number will grow to 13,000 in five years.
  • There are 28,000 unpaid caregivers who devote millions of hours to patients.
  • Alzheimer's is the fifth leading cause of death in Wyoming and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
  • Many Alzheimer's patients also have other health issues including heart disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory problems.
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