Alzheimer’s disease or dementia touches nearly every family in some way, yet each case is extremely personal. That’s why the Heart to Heart Hospice Foundation and local Heart to Heart Hospice care teams partner each year with the Alzheimer’s Association for Walk to End Alzheimer’s events across the U.S. to support awareness, research, and efforts to end the progressive brain disease.

Consider these statistics*:

  • More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s.
  • Tied with cancer at 24%, Alzheimer’s (along with nervous system disorders/organic psychosis) is the top primary diagnosis for hospice cases.
  • Alzheimer’s serves as a secondary diagnosis in a large number of hospice cases.
  • The average length of stay on hospice for neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s, is 155 days.
  • More than 11 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.
  • Between 2000 and 2019, deaths from Alzheimer’s have more than doubled.

Annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s (WTEA) events, held in 600 communities nationwide, is the world’s largest fundraiser for Alzheimer’s support. Through the Heart to Heart Hospice Foundation, the hospice provider joins in walks across Indiana, Michigan, and Texas.

“Our involvement shows we are willing to show up for our patients and their families,” said Randi Williams-Toth, a Heart to Heart Bereavement Coordinator and walk supporter. “We believe there is work to be done through fundraising, science and the power of gathering people with the same agenda to end Alzheimer’s.” 

Personal + The Power of Many

Why are Heart to Heart Hospice and the Foundation so involved in the WTEA? The sheer number of patients and families impacted means providers and caregivers need training on the unique needs of Alzheimer’s patients, as well as educating the community to help families deal if/when a diagnosis comes.

“Hospice can provide the care, our team members can learn the tools and our aftercare/bereavement team can continue to be there to support families and loved ones,” said Williams-Toth.

Walking alongside other families who deal with Alzheimer’s also fosters community and encouragement to persevere. Many Heart to Heart Hospice team members who participate in the walks also have personal experiences with loved ones who suffer from Alzheimer’s.

“My uncle was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This last year, he spent time on one of the Michigan [hospice] services,” said Williams-Toth. “This year, I made my donations and my husband walked in honor of my Uncle Jerry. At the end of the walk … I made my way to the chalkboard memory walls where the walk patrons can write messages in honor of their loved ones. I simply wrote ‘Uncle Jerry.’” As a bereavement coordinator, she said she often keeps her emotions in check, but the impact of the name board made her tear up.

“I had a grandparent that passed from Alzheimer’s, and I currently have two others living with dementia and Alzheimer’s. I walk for them,” said Ronda Duncan, Volunteer Coordinator and WTEA participant. “I have also included my daughter and her friends each year that I have participated. My favorite experience is seeing the different groups that come out completely decked out in team T-shirts, matching one another, family names and photos all over them. At times, the family member living with Alzheimer’s is with them on the walk day.”

While there is no fee to participate in the Walks, the Alzheimer’s Association encourages teams to “raise critical funds that allow the Alzheimer’s Association to provide 24/7 care and support and advance research toward methods of prevention, treatment and, ultimately, a cure.” They use 79% of its funds for disease care, support, research, awareness and advocacy. 

“Walking the Alzheimer’s walk reminds me of the perseverance of family, community, and the dedication to finding a cure,” shared Anrico Lockhart, Heart to Heart Hospice Southgate Volunteer. “Participating in the walk gives me an opportunity to educate the public and bring awareness to this disease.”

Patricia Williams, a supporter of the Heart to Heart Hospice Foundation and Southgate Heart to Heart Hospice team member, said she gives because she knows it makes a difference. “The pages on the calendar keep turning. My peers and I see more silver in our hair and our skin has some wrinkles. I am fortunate to remember when that wasn’t the case,” she shared. “Alzheimer’s has stolen those memories, and much more, from a few close friends over the years. I support the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in their memory, and in hopes that together new treatments and a cure can be found for this cruel disease.”

In addition to supporting the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, the Heart to Heart Hospice Foundation offers Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support programs that provide community education and involvement, caregiver support programs, scholarships for respite care and adult day programs, plus critical care support.

*Sources: The Alzheimer’s Association, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization