By CHRISSY SMITH
Tammany West news
MANDEVILLE – Walking is good for you, and walking for a cause is even better.
The Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s event is set to take place on Saturday, Nov. 15 at Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville. Registration takes place at 9 a.m., the opening ceremony is at 10 a.m., and the walk will begin at 10:30 a.m.
Rhonda Vahle is a community liaison for Magnolia Behavioral Health, and joined the Alzheimer’s Association eight years ago to help with this detrimental disease. She said a lot of her patients have Alzheimer’s and she has seen the heavy toll it takes not only on the patients, but on the family.
There are nearly six million Americans living today with Alzheimer’s disease, including 5.2 million people at the age of 65 or older, and 200,000 people under the age of 65. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death and the costs related to treating it are phenomenal and expected to rise. Here in Louisiana, nearly over 86,000 people are affected by this disease with half of them being cared for at home by a family member. The cost that is related to the disease will reach $1.2 billion by the year of 2050.
“Both of my grandmothers have Alzheimer’s, but I got to know about this disease before then,” Vahle said. “I had a job selling newspaper ads in Dallas, and through that I got to know all the senior agencies. I wanted to get to the medical side of things.”
Vahle moved to the North Shore over a year ago.
“When I was in Dallas I was involved in so many senior events, and I’m excited to be here now and helping with this,” Vahle said.
The local said some of her experience with Alzheimer’s patients have shown her that although they might be different than who they used to be now, they all had very fulfilling lives at one point.
“There was a patient who came in one day and she had not been groomed and was having behavioral problems. She came in with a scrapbook, though, and it showed that she used to be an amazing performer. There are so many stories like that,” Vahle said.
While there is more awareness for the disease now, Vahle said there is still more that needs to be done.
“It is being accepted as a brain disease now where it used to be viewed as something very different,” Vahle said. “Back in the day you would correct a patient who was disoriented. If they thought it was a different year, you would correct them and tell them they were wrong. But now we know to just go with them through the thought process.”
Vahle said it is vital for people to protect their brain health through getting regular exercise, eating fruits, vegetables, and doing things to keep the brain active – like taking a dance class or learning something new.
The annual walk, which will take place in Mandeville, is the number one source for generating revenue in Louisiana to provide services and resources to the community. Last year’s event generated nearly $97,000 in revenue that was spent on providing services and resources to those being affected and adding much needed staff support for education programs including the recent education series on the North Shore, New Orleans, and Lafayette as well as an office administrator.
To start or join a team, visit www.alz.org/louisiana or call 504-648-4076.