By LILY TINOCO | Reporter
Palisadian Kathy Haag is getting ready for her 10th year participating in the Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Sunday, October 24.
Haag shared that her mother, Maria, has been fighting Alzheimer’s dementia for over 20 years—she is the youngest of three siblings and was the first to be diagnosed. She lost her two sisters years later, but is still fighting.
“My mom, being the youngest, is still here, and it’s kind of amazing,” Haag said to the Palisadian-Post. “My mom’s journey is different, and I’ve learned a lot over the past 20 years. It’s been a long learning curve. I’m finding now that … a lot of my friends and family are being affected by this awful disease.
“It’s very, very common. We have over six million people in the United States who have Alzheimer’s … it’s one of the top leading [causes of] deaths in our country. Bringing awareness is what I’m trying to do, even we were ignorant in the beginning.”
Haag has dedicated time educating and supporting others, funding and advocating for Alzheimer’s research since. She started the group “Maria’s Sisters” in 2015 in reference to her mother and her two aunts as a vessel to educate and connect with others.
She also began participating in the Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s in 2012 and has walked every year since then.
“The mission of the Alzheimer’s Association is to lead the way to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support,” according to the organization’s website.
Haag said she walked by herself in Culver City the first year. Her involvement was a way for her to channel her “hopelessness and do something with it.”
“I went by myself and it was so comforting to be around all these people, these families … all walking around with pictures of their loved ones on their shirts,” Haag recalled. “And they were all there for the same reason, because all you can do is love and care for the person. That’s it.
“Alzheimer’s is different than cancer and heart disease. When somebody doesn’t have their mind and can’t contribute to their own journey, it’s a different kind of care and love.”
By her third year walking with the group, she began inviting friends and family to join her. She is often joined by her daughter, local friends, sorority sisters and neighbors. Since they began walking, they have raised over $50,000.
This year alone, the group raised $6,790 of its $7,000 goal as the Post went to print Tuesday evening.
Haag said she makes herself available to individuals who want to talk about it or are just starting their journey. She also reminded community members to take care of themselves and get their tests done regularly.
She shared that the best path after diagnosis is exercise, a healthy diet, positive social interaction, and a safe and caring environment.
“When you’re dealing with the mind, all bets are off,” she said. “The most important thing is keeping your loved one safe.”
She invited Palisadians to join or support Maria’s Sisters in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Sunday, October 24, at Santa Monica Pier.
“It’s important to continue to raise funds and awareness,” according to the Maria’s Sisters webpage. “We need to find the answer to this devastating disease that robs the victims and their families of so much emotionally and financially.”
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