By Karen Stokes
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is difficult and can be a tricky situation to navigate. Learning as much as you can about Alzheimer’s can be helpful. This disease touches many of your friends, family and people in your community.
The Alzheimer’s Association Wisconsin Chapter is shining a light on the disease and teaming up with sportscasters, Matt Lepay and Paul Braun, for the 2021 Walk to End Alzheimer’s® in Wisconsin.
Lepay has been a radio play-by-play announcer for the University of Wisconsin Madison basketball program for 34 years. Originally from Vandalia, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton, Lepay and his wife moved to Wisconsin in 1988.
Most people who are involved in projects concerning Alzheimer’s or most other diseases have a personal reason for being involved. This is also the case for Lepay.
“My mom passed away four years ago,” Lepay said. “I lost my dad in 2017. My mom was diagnosed in 2012. She had all of the tell-tale signs of someone who was losing her cognitive skills. I was close to my mom. I just wanted to be able to honor her, it is just a devastating illness.”
In the U.S., an estimated 6 million people of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease. Of these, around 5.3 million are 65 and older and 200,000 are younger and have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. About two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women.
“It’s interesting to me when you talk about environmental factors like, living in a polluted area or a cleaner area that can make a difference,” Lepay said. “Your diet can make a difference, exercise and staying active. All of us are vulnerable but different races and factors can make us more vulnerable.”
According to alzimpact.org, high blood pressure and diabetes are suspected risk factors for Alzheimer’s and other dementias and are more prevalent in the African American community, whereas diabetes is more prevalent in the Hispanic community. These conditions, among others, may contribute to the greater prevalence of Alzheimer’s among these groups.
Better management of risk factors particularly high blood pressure and diabetes may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias among African Americans and Hispanics.
As the largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research, the association is committed to accelerating the global progress of new treatments, preventions and ultimately, a cure.
There will be 27 Walks to End Alzheimer’s in Wisconsin. The Milwaukee Walk is Sept. 19 starting at the Summerfest Grounds. The Madison walk is Oct. 3. About 17,000-20,000 walkers are expected across the state.
If you are ready to lace up and Walk to End Alzheimer’s, register now, it’s FREE! Go to: act.alz.org/milwaukee.
“Taking care of yourself the best you can gives you the best chance in not having to deal with Alzheimer’s,” Lepay said. “I think of my parents every day and just feel that it’s a small way to do what I can hopefully one day get to a point where people don’t have to go down this journey because it’s an awful journey.”