By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff Writer
Each participant in the various Walks to End Alzheimer’s carries a flower during the events across Washington and North Idaho, and each color means something different: blue flowers mean you have Alzheimer’s disease, yellow means you’re a caregiver, orange means you’re an advocate and purple means you’ve lost a loved one to the disease.
At this year’s North Idaho Walk to End Alzheimer’s, held Sept. 30 in Coeur d’Alene, Event Coordinator Leslie Woodfill will hold a purple pinwheel flower.
Woodfill said she recently had a Facebook memory pop up from seven years ago — the first time she did the walk, at the time with her mother, who had a form of Alzheimer’s known as Lewy body dementia. While the transition from the yellow flower to the purple flower has been terribly hard, Woodfill said she is more than willing to share her mother’s story because the Alzheimer’s Association, who puts on the walk, helped her mother so much when she was alive. Through support groups sponsored with funds raised by the walks, Woodfill said she and her parents were able to find other people in their same situation.
“You can’t do Alzheimer’s alone,” Woodfill said. “You need support. You need people to ask questions to.”
Aside from local support groups, the funds raised also go toward local education programs to combat the stigma surrounding the disease, as well as to research efforts.
“The money stays local, except for the research money which goes to the Alzheimer’s Foundation, but the thing is there’s lots of companies in Spokane and eastern Washington that are doing research funded by the Alzheimer’s Foundation,” Woodfill said. “It’s benefiting local people.”
While Alzheimer’s has a reputation as a cureless, hopeless disease, Woodfill said she’s seen hope develop just in the decade that the walks have been held across the region.
“What’s exciting is we’re just finally finding opportunities for people to be like ‘there is hope.’ This is the first year where they’re saying ‘we have different treatments that are coming into play,’” she said, noting several new preventative measures that are on the verge of being introduced. “There’s a lot of progress in what’s happening with Alzheimer’s research. There’s a lot happening and I really want people to have that hope.”
That hope is reflected by the incorporation of a new pinwheel flower this year, Woodfill said: the white flower, held by one child as a representation that with the efforts of those searching for a cure, that child will never have to worry about having Alzheimer’s.
“It’s been one of those diseases where there’s no hope. Who wants to give to something where people are still dying?” Woodfill said. “But with breast cancer, 30 years ago there was no hope, and now look at the cure rates. We still need research, but there’s an awareness and people are being proactive in their health, and that’s what we need people to do with Alzheimer’s.”
She said so far two groups of walkers from Sandpoint have signed up to walk in Coeur d’Alene, including members representing Luther Park and Life Care Center of Sandpoint. Those who still want to sign up have plenty of time, as the walk accepts participants up to the day of. Go online to register at alz.org/walk. Registration on the day starts at 8:30 a.m. and the walk begins at 10 a.m.
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