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Gladitsch: Why I walk to end Alzheimer’s disease

Melinda Gladitsch
Valley Voices
Melinda Gladitsch’s mother, Twylla Sondquist, is pictured at Piney Lake north of Vail in 1997. Sondquist passed away in 2017 after nearly a decade-long bout with Alzheimer’s.
Courtesy photo

I walk to end Alzheimer’s disease and all other dementias. I walk for my mother, who I lost to the disease in 2017.

Since my personal experience with Alzheimer’s, I have become very involved with the Alzheimer’s Association and am chairing the Vail Valley Walk to End Alzheimer’s for the third year. I have learned so much about the disease and its effect on individuals and our society, which makes me want to work even harder for a cure.

The unsung heroes of this disease are the caregivers. I feel like it is one of the few diseases where the painful impact on the caregiver is more devastating than on the patient. More than 80% of people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are receiving care in their homes from a relative.



Imagine watching your mother or father or the love of your life slip slowly away right before your eyes. You are left with the work of daily bathing, dressing, bathroom assistance, feeding and ensuring the safety of someone who may not even remember who you are.

You are isolated, because it isn’t safe for you to leave your loved one alone and respite care is difficult to find. Social invitations become fewer and fewer because many people are uncomfortable interacting with someone suffering from Alzheimer’s.



Financial worries increase as well since many caregivers have to leave their job in order to care for a loved one full time. It is estimated that in 2021 there will be 18.4 billion hours of unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, at an economic value of more than $232 billion.

It’s no surprise that about 40% of family caregivers of people with dementia suffer from depression compared with 5% to 17% of non-caregivers of similar ages. Statistics bear out the toll it takes. According to a recent Stanford Medicine study, some 40% of Alzheimer’s caregivers die before the patient. It isn’t a particular disease or accident that takes these caregivers, but rather the sheer physical, spiritual and emotional toll of caring for someone struggling with the Alzheimer’s.

If you know someone who is a caregiver, please do your best to help them feel supported, valued and included. If you are a caregiver, we are here to help.

Eagle County offers services for caregivers through support from the Alzheimer’s Association but many people are unaware of the offerings. More than 700 people in Eagle County were supported with Alzheimer’s Association programs in 2020 through bi-monthly support groups, individual phone calls and care consultations, the 24/7 Help Line, and the Caregiver Connections respite care program. You are not alone. There is a community of people who share your grief and want to give you support.

If you are moved by the need for a cure and treatments for this horrible disease, join us on Saturday, Sept. 25, for the Vail Valley Walk to End Alzheimer’s at Brush Creek Park in Eagle. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. with a program at 9:30 a.m. followed by an easy stroll through Eagle. To register or donate, visit act.alz.org/vailvalleywalk. If you would like to get involved as a volunteer, call me at 970-471-0175 or email me at gladmelinda@gmail.com.

Together, we can end Alzheimer’s and all other dementias.


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