Raising awareness of Alzheimer’s

KAPAA — Donna Umetsu got a free Saturday to be able to experience the Walk to End Alzheimer’s at the Kapaa Beach Park.

“This is my first time doing the walk,” Umetsu said. “Today, I had a free Saturday so thought I would check this out. My mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s so I’m excited to be able to do this.”

Umetsu was one of more than 200 people who turned out for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s that featured a pancake breakfast prepared by Arnold Leong and Friends who prepared the Flying Saucers for the Mahelona Hospital bon dance the night before.

“I was at the bon dance,” said Dr. Laurel Coleman, the walk coordinator. “I was buttering the bread for the Flying Saucers. The Mahelona Hospital residents are here, too for the first time.”

Coleman said for her, the walk was personal.

“I have Alzheimer’s in my family,” Coleman said. “In my profession, I meet patients daily who deal with dementia. This is the most expensive of diseases to treat, and the numbers in Hawaii is growing.”

She said when a person is diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, they tend to stay inside and not go out. Caregivers tend to be overwhelmed with the need for care, and in many cases feel they are alone with the disease.

“We can adapt,” Coleman said. “We as a community need to be dementia- friendly.”

The walk raises awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.

“Your participation today is vitally important,” said U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard in remarks delivered by Kaulana Finn, her Kauai field representative. “Alzheimer’s affects more than 26,000 people in Hawaii, and more than 5.4 million people across the United States. This irreversible, progressive brain disorder is one of the top leading causes of death in the U.S. and affects one in three of our kupuna here in Hawaii. But thanks to your support, we are fighting back, together.”

State Rep. Nadine Nakamura sported a yellow flower for her mother-in-law, 96, who has been diagnosed with dementia.

“My boss gave me the day off so I could walk in this,” said Leah Scovel. “When he asked me if I was walking, I told him I had to work. He gave me the day off so I could walk. I’ll also be walking at the Bark for Life next Saturday because I work for the Kapaa Animal Clinic, and that event honors animals and the healing power they have as well as helps fight cancer.”

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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