Sacramento man participates in Walk to honor a superhero
By Kerry Larkey, MSN, RN
Of the more than 300,000 participants worldwide, each person joins Walk to End Alzheimer’s® for their own reason. While some walk to raise awareness about the disease, others walk to fight for access to treatment options and a different future. Zachary Basler is participating in Walk to End Alzheimer’s -Sacramento for a different reason. He walks to honor the memory of a superhero—his mother, Kathy Adams. Kathy battled Alzheimer’s disease, and her journey has inspired Zachary to join the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.
The life of a superhero
Kathy came from a large family of nine children. A strong belief in the value of community service was instilled in each child at an early age. This value has been passed down through generations, with her father serving as Captain of Treasure Island in the U.S. military and his two brothers serving as Chief of Police and Chief of the Fire Department in their respective communities.
Following in her father’s footsteps, Kathy spent her entire career giving back to the community. As a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse at Children’s Hospital in Colorado, she cared for the youngest and sickest patients. In addition to working a challenging job with long hours, she raised three boys independently. “She was kind of a superhero in my eyes,” Zachary says. “Saving babies and her three kids.”
Kathy was a courageous and adventurous woman who fearlessly pursued new experiences like stand-up comedy and downhill skiing. Every year, she hiked at least one 14,000+ ft mountain in the rugged Rocky Mountains of Colorado, despite the harsh weather conditions of heat, cold, rain and snow. “She had no fear of anything,” recalls Zachary.
Diagnosis and living with Alzheimer’s
It wasn’t until 2006 that Zachary, now an adult and every bit as vibrant as Kathy, noticed unusual changes in his mother’s behavior. Seemingly out of nowhere, she sold her home in Colorado and moved to California. “She didn’t have a plan,” Zachary remembers. “She was just odd.” He eventually helped Kathy settle in Sacramento, where she could enjoy more stability and be close to her five brothers.
Five years after those first signs, Kathy was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s at age 61. Zachary explains, “I called her doctor in advance to tell him something was wrong, and I didn’t know what to do. We took her in that morning, and he knew what to do and what questions to ask.” By that evening, Zachary received a call saying his mother had Alzheimer’s.
Initially, Alzheimer’s affected Kathy’s behavior in small, endearing ways. “Mom always used to love toast with peanut butter,” Zachary remembers with a smile. “When she had Alzheimer’s, she would start to put the peanut butter on the bread before toasting it.”
But as her condition progressed, the family began fearing for Kathy’s safety. “One of the disturbing—most terrifying—things was that I could turn my head for a second, and in two minutes, she would get the keys and be out the door. Only to get lost wherever she was at,” Zachary remembers.
Wandering is a serious safety concern and occurs all too often, with six in 10 people living with dementia wandering at least once. For many families, wandering is the most frightening and stressful part of caring for their loved ones. Fortunately, there are steps caregivers can take to plan ahead, reduce risk, and prepare the home with safety measures. Programs are available for 24/7 wandering support, like the MedicAlert® emergency response system.
Caring for a superhero
Zachary and one of his brothers eventually moved in with their mom and provided around-the-clock care for three years. It isn’t unusual for caregiving to fall on the family and loved ones of people living with dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association® 2023 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, over 11 million family and friends provide care for people living with dementia in the United States. Approximately 83% of caregiving in the home is provided by family members, friends or other unpaid caregivers.
Relocating to Sacramento forced Zachary to reduce his hours at work and eventually change employers altogether. According to the Facts and Figures report six in 10 caregivers were employed in the past year, with 18% of these caregivers changing from full-time to part-time work or cutting back hours at their primary jobs. Nine percent of caregivers give up their jobs entirely to care for their loved ones.
“It’s a very expensive disease to get,” Zachary adds. Dementia is one of the costliest conditions to society. Many caregivers suffer from financial stress related to paying for their loved ones’ personal and medical care expenses. As reported in the Facts and Figures report, a study done in 2016, found that four in 10 caregivers reported the food they bought for their household “just didn’t last, and they didn’t have money to get more,” and three in 10 ate less because of care-related costs.
The Alzheimer’s Association® offers support and connection throughout the journey
Fortunately, Zachary was able to find support and resources through the Alzheimer’s Association. “This is the number one organization out there helping to guide people through the Alzheimer’s process, whether [you’re] living through it or affected by it,” he says. “Alz.org® is a wealth of resources. The moment you think of anything you should go there.”
Looking back, Zachary is grateful for the time he spent caring for his mom, the superhero. In the same way that Kathy was the first person to grab her first aid kit and help if there was an accident, Zachary now eagerly helps others affected by dementia through volunteering with the Association. “My family is big on service,” he says. “We grew up volunteering…Helping other people is in our blood.”
Starting a Walk team at work
One year after Kathy passed away, Zachary and his family completed their first Walk to End Alzheimer’s to honor her memory. Six of Kathy’s siblings and their spouses came to Walk. What were his first impressions of the experience? “I realized I wasn’t alone as I thought I was,” Zachary explains, “There was an odd camaraderie when all those people came together. There was so much hope and so much understanding and wisdom within that group.”
The Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s® is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide, this inspiring event calls on participants of all ages and abilities to join the fight against the disease.
This year, Zachary is the Team Captain for the Topflight Group in the 2023 Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Sacramento. The team is supported by his employer, the Top Flight Group at Coldwell Banker Realty, and their goal is to raise over $10,000 for the Association.
Everyone on the team has had their life impacted by Alzheimer’s differently, but Zachary is the only person on his team who has participated in the event before. Knowing how powerful it was for him to be a part of Walk to End Alzheimer’s the first time, Zachary is looking forward to watching the reactions of his other team members on Walk day.
Becoming a Champion
This year, Zachary has become a Champions Club member by raising more than $500. As of the writing of this blog he has raised more than $2,100, making him roughly $300 short of becoming an Elite Grand Champion.
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s Champions Club recognizes and rewards participants who reach special fundraising milestones. An individual’s personal fundraising efforts are what dictate which level they receive; Champion ($500 raised), Grand Champion ($1,000 raised) or Elite Grand Champion ($2,500 raised). All Champions receive a medal with Grand Champions and Elite Grand Champions receiving additional prizes.
The Association provides creative fundraising ideas for those interested in creating a team for Walk and fundraising. The Topflight Group hosted monthly mixers, held online auctions for gift cards, organized lunch-and-learn events, and posted alz.org information on social media outlets throughout the month. “We’re educating people out there and hearing stories as a team and making a positive impact through education and awareness—as a team,” Zachary explains.
Please consider joining Zachary and the Topflight Group by participating in Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Right now, more than 6 million people with their own stories, like Zachary and Kathy, are living with Alzheimer’s. Join us for the world’s largest fundraiser to fight the disease and walk for the superhero in your life.
You can join Zachary’s team, Topflight Group – Coldwell Banker Realty or form your own team and join us for Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Sacramento on September 30. Not in Sacramento? Register today at alz.org/walk and be the first to know about Walk in your area.
We’re closer than ever to stopping Alzheimer’s. But to get there, we need you. Join us for the world’s largest fundraiser to fight the disease.
- Register today at alz.org/walk.
- Invite others to join you.
- Raise awareness and funds.
- All money raised through Walk to End Alzheimer’s benefits the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association.