For 15 years, Randy Detweiler, a Health Promotion Analyst at Highmark, has been dedicated to raising both awareness and money for Alzheimer’s disease research as captain of Highmark’s team in the Pittsburgh Walk to End Alzheimer’s, hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association. This year’s Walk is on Sat., Oct. 11 and begins at 9:30 a.m. at Gate A of Heinz Field on the North Shore.

The Walk is held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide and is the nation’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.

“A good reason to walk in your local community is that any money you raise stays in your own community,” Randy stated. “You have the opportunity to help your own families and friends with the money you raise.”

Highmark is a platinum sponsor of the 2014 Walk and has made a $5,000 donation.

2013 Pittsburgh Walk to End Alzheimer's

Photo of last year’s Pittsburgh Walk courtesy of the Alzheimer’s Association.

 

Join Us at the Walk to Honor Family and Friends Who’ve Braved the Disease

Have you had any personal connection to Alzheimer’s disease? Given these statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association, chances are you have — or will at some point in your life:

  • Someone develops Alzheimer’s every 67 seconds.
  • More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s.
  • It’s the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.
  • 15.5 million people are caregivers for others with Alzheimer’s.

By participating in the Walk, you can pay tribute to people you know who fought the disease, are living with it today, or are caring for someone who has it.

If you want to help support the cause, Randy encourages you to join the Highmark team in this year’s Walk, regardless of if you’re a Highmark member or not. “You don’t need to be an employee to walk on our team,” Randy said.

For the majority of his time helping with the Walk, Randy didn’t have any personal connection to Alzheimer’s (although he does now). He had been motivated to organize and walk in the event by his awareness — gained by working in Highmark’s Medicare area — of the individual and societal toll the disease was taking.

“I’ve been working with seniors in Allegheny County for 23 years and have seen firsthand the effect Alzheimer’s has on them,” Randy said. “That’s why I started the team 15 years ago. At first, only Senior Services participated, but several years ago Highmark became a major sponsor of the walk.  That enabled me to recruit more and grow the team.”

Register Free for the Walk and Help To Fight Alzheimer’s

Registration for the Walk is free. Here’s how to join the Highmark team:

  1. At the Walk to End Alzheimer’s website, enter zip code 15222 for Pittsburgh in the Find a Walk section.
  2. Click on the Pittsburgh, PA Walk location and click Register.
  3. Click Join a Team and enter “Highmark” in the search box.
  4. Click the Join button, fill out your registration form, and follow the prompts.

Not in the Pittsburgh area? You can still be part of the event. On the Alzheimer’s Walk website, you can also find the dates for Walks in other regions, such as Central PA, West Virginia, and Delaware.

If you want to wait until the day of the Pittsburgh Walk to register, there will be pre-registration beginning at 8:00 a.m., with a live band, food, and coffee.

The entire walk is 2-3 miles long, but if you’re not much of a walker, that’s fine. You have the flexibility to walk as much or as little as you like. If you don’t want to walk but would still like to support the event and the cause, you can donate online.

The Facts Behind Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, is a progressive brain disease that damages and eventually destroys brain cells, robbing people of their memory and changing the way they think and behave. And while the disease can develop slowly and worsen gradually in some people, it is ultimately fatal, with no known cure.

Most people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older, but up to 5% of people with the disease have what is known as Early Onset Alzheimer’s, which often begins in the 40s and 50s.

Dr. Judith Black, Medical Director for Senior Markets at Highmark, comments that, “Often times the warning signs of dementia are not recognized by both family members and the patient’s doctors. It is so important to have conversations with your loved ones’ physicians if you see any of the warning signs of dementia.”

Here are 10 potential warning signs of the disease, from the Alzheimer’s Association:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • Decreased or poor judgment
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Changes in mood or personality

“Everyone is affected by Alzheimer’s. Most of us know a family member or friend affected by this disease,” Randy said. “It struck my family over the last few years. Four years ago, my dad’s girlfriend was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and needed to be placed in a care home four months ago.”

Randy went on to say, “When I walk now, I think about her and reflect on the good care she is getting due the improvements made over the last few years. I hope that a cure will be found in her life time and she can be one of many who say ‘I beat Alzheimer’s.’”

If you have questions about the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, can’t find the information you’re looking for online, or if you need some direction on how to sign up or donate, you can email Randy directly at randy.detweiler@highmark.com