In 1901, Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German psychiatrist and neurologist, examined a patient with a mystifying case of progressive memory loss. He determined that she had a pathological form of dementia—what we now know to be Alzheimer’s disease.
Today, Alzheimer’s is classified as a degenerative disease of the brain and the most common form of dementia (according to the Alzheimer’s Association, it accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases). Symptoms develop gradually and worsen over time, eventually becoming so severe that they interfere with daily life. And while the majority of sufferers are 65 and older, it is not a disease reserved solely for the elderly. There are less common forms that appear earlier in adulthood; in fact, the Alzheimer’s Association says up to 5 percent of people with the disease have early onset Alzheimer’s, with many diagnosed in their 40s and 50s. An estimated 5.7 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s, and tragically, the outlook is grim: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the disease as the nation’s sixth leading cause of death for adults (and the fifth leading cause of death for adults ages 65 years and older). While there are treatments that can temporarily delay the symptoms, there is currently no cure. That may change soon, though, as there is a vigorous effort underway to change the trajectory of the disease.
Joanne Foxxe of Kapalua Realty knows firsthand the destructive nature of Alzheimer’s: two people close to her are grappling with the disease. “If there was a cure now…it surely would give me peace of mind,” she said.
That’s why she took part in this year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, the world’s largest event to elevate awareness and raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Association and its mission-related initiatives of care, support and research. The Alzheimer’s Association has chapters nationwide (including the Alzheimer’s Association Aloha Chapter in Hawaii) and actively works to eliminate the disease through advancements in research. The nonprofit organization also aims to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain-healthy lifestyles, and facilitates workshops, support groups and one-on-one consultations for those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.
As one of more than 600 events taking place across the country this fall, the Maui Walk to End Alzheimer’s was held on Saturday, Oct. 20. The two-mile walk started at the Boys & Girls Clubs Central Clubhouse in Wailuku and meandered through nearby Keopuolani Park. “It wasn’t a long walk—it was easy, with water and cheering along the way,” Foxxe said. “There was great participation by the schools, which was wonderful to see.” There was also live music and entertainment, an awards ceremony, and a “promise garden” filled with personalized forget-me-not flowers. Most importantly, all of the money raised at this year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s will further the Alzheimer’s Association’s care, support and research efforts.
Foxxe encourages everyone to consider lacing up their sneakers next year. She’s already gearing up for the 2019 event. “Next year, I am committed to making the event even bigger,” she said. “I want to put my own team together and raise more money than I did this year.” (Foxxe was one of the top individual fundraisers for 2018 and was inducted into the Alzheimer Association’s exclusive Grand Champions Club.)
And if you do take part in next year’s event, every step you take will bring researchers closer to wiping out this terrible disease. “There are 28,000 Hawaii residents affected by this disease and 66,000 caregivers,” Foxxe said. “That’s why I’m motivated to find a cure.”
For more information about the Alzheimer’s Association Aloha Chapter, visit www.alz.org/hawaii or call 591-2771. There’s also a 24/7 helpline that gives callers immediate guidance, emotional support and crisis intervention: 1-800-272-3900. The 2018 walk may be over, but Foxxe is still collecting donations; you can send a check payable to the Alzheimer’s Association to: Joanne Foxxe, c/o Kapalua Realty, 700 Office Rd., Lahaina, HI 96761.
By Sarah Ruppenthal
The Maui News – November 3, 2018