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Local View: Sobering stats not only reason 1,000 walking in Duluth

My mother, Norma Janke Boe, passed away at 82 in April from complications of Alzheimer's disease. But, in a sense, she died years ago as the disease slowly, then quickly, ate away at her.

Dave BoeIt came in stages. Irritability. Then lapses of memory. Wandering off at night. Then complete loss of memory. My father eventually moved her and him to Ecumen Lakshore's memory care unit. Things got worse after my father passed away in 2009. Even with her disease, I think she sensed him not being there.

We would visit with the kids, and she would react to them, even though she had no idea who they were. For a few years she remained somewhat active, strolling the halls of the memory care unit or, when she could, walking outside when my sister could take her. Eventually the walks ended. She'd either just sleep in bed, sleep in one of the chairs in the main room slouched over, or just stand slouched over.

In March, my mom's health declined, and she was put on hospice care. My siblings and I knew it was only a matter of time. That time came April 3, when my sister told me Mom had passed. Mixed emotions. Sad she was gone. But also glad her suffering was over, even if, ironically, she didn't know she was suffering.

Since her death, I wrote a story about a woman, Lori Fulkerson, whose mother passed away at 58 (!) from Alzheimer's. Lori volunteers on the local Alzheimer's Association committee. She gave me some startling statistics.

Alzheimer's Disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. It's the only top-10 cause of death that can't be prevented, cured, or even slowed. An estimated 5.5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's, including 100,000 in Minnesota. Approximately 200,000 Americans are living with younger-onset Alzheimer's, which affects people younger than 65. Almost two-thirds of people with Alzheimer's are women. Alzheimer's is the most expensive disease in America. This year it will cost our nation $259 billion.

Some sobering facts, but I firmly believe there is a cure, which is why I'm participating in the annual Walk to End Alzheimer's, given my old bones can deal with it. Lori said she expects about 1,000 people to participate in this year's walk. On Saturday, the walk starts with registration at Pioneer Hall at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center at 8:30 a.m. and then follows the Lakewalk beginning at 10 a.m. The goal is to raise $180,000. More information is at alz.org/walk.

I will be there to help achieve the goal — and to honor, ironically, the memory of my mother.

 

Dave Boe is a researcher and a writer who lives in Duluth.

If you go

What: The annual Twin Ports Area Walk to End Alzheimer's

When: Saturday; registration begins 8:30 a.m., opening ceremony is 10 a.m. with the walk to follow

Where: Registration is at Pioneer Hall at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, 350 Harbor Drive; the walk follows the Lakewalk

Entry fee: A $100 donation, includes a participant T-shirt

Online: act.alz.org/site/TR/Walk2017/MN-Minnesota-NorthDakota?pg=entry&fr_id=10523

Contact: Brenda Conley at (218) 206-4442 or at bconley@alz.org

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