Boca Raton Walk takes steps to draw attention to Alzheimer’s
Pamela Higer-Polani is instrumental in organizing
Boca Raton’s first Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
By Mary Thurwachter
Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
for Reprint, Please see http://thecoastalstar.ning.com/m/blogpost?id=2331112%3ABlogPost%3A136098
When Pamela Higer-Polani approached the Alzheimer’s Association a year and a half ago about having a walk in Boca Raton, she was told there could only be one walk in a county and that one was in West Palm Beach.
Polani, a probate guardianship lawyer from Delray Beach, argued that Palm Beach County, with a population of 1.37 million, is one of the largest counties in the state and could well handle two walks.
She said South Palm Beach County has such a large number of senior citizens (35 percent are 65 or over) and many people suffering from Alzheimer’s, a progressive, degenerative disorder that attacks the brain’s nerve cells, resulting in loss of memory, thinking and language skills, and behavioral changes.
“I told them by not having a walk in South County, they were really missing out,” she said.
The organization eventually agreed to a mini walk — with an expectation of 100 walkers — but as support for the Boca Raton walk became evident, the size of the walk grew, too. Polani was so successful at recruiting committee members, sponsors and other volunteers that the mini walk evolved into a full-fledged walk to take place Oct. 11 in Mizner Park.
She was pleased, but said she resisted being in charge as committee chair.
“I’m not a leader,” she said. But her actions prove otherwise. Still, she insists, her committee deserves the credit.
“Nearly everyone on my committee is a business person who understands the financial impact that this disease will have on everyone in our community,” she said. “Many have a personal insight into Alzheimer’s as well, due to a family member or friend suffering and/or dying due to it.”
Before the May 29 kickoff party at Jazziz in Mizner Park, Polani and her committee went store to store to hang up fliers promoting the event.
“We had a great kickoff party,” she said. “The mayor came and so did several council members. We generated a lot of money and a lot of buzz.”
But why is this busy 44-year-old lawyer, wife and mother of two working so hard for this particular cause? Does she have a family member afflicted with Alzheimer’s?
Her passion for fighting Alzheimer’s springs from her work.
“This issue is very much a part of my legal practice,” said Polani, who was born in Miami, said.
“I have clients with Alzheimer’s,” she said. “We do guardianships for them. I go into their houses. I see what is happening and how hard the disease is on the caretakers, too. We try to make people aware of what they need to do to avoid guardianships. You have to plan for when you get older.”
The kind of work she does, she said, “is very hard to put those cases behind you at the end of the day. I truly feel the need, as a member of this community all of my life, that contributing in this way helps pay back all the wonderful memories growing up on the water, in this paradise we call home, has provided my family and me,” she said. “I hope to help protect and treasure each person’s memories by helping to end Alzheimer’s today.”
By mid-September, the Boca Walk had already lined up 450 walkers and raised 78 percent of its $75,000 goal,” she said. Her goal is for more. She wants $100,000.
“I like to aim high,” Polani said.
Five facts about Alzheimer’s you probably don’t know
1. One in six women and one in 11 men will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in their lifetime.
2. Cancer, along with all of the other significant causes of death in our country, is on the decrease; only Alzheimer’s is on the increase. As we extend our lifetimes longer and longer, Alzheimer’s threatens to destroy the very memories and reasoning on which we built those lives.
3. Alzheimer’s makes your whole body shut down, organ by organ, as your brain is corrupted from the disease. Unlike many other diseases, there is no way that a person can possibly take care of himself or herself while battling its effects. In fact, it takes nearly five caregivers per patient for proper attention to be given, making Alzheimer’s one of the most expensive diseases anyone will ever have to face.
4. In Florida, we have approximately 500,000 people living with Alzheimer’s — and 150,000 of them are living in our county. In fact, 17.5 percent of our state is over the age of 65 — in South County that number jumps to 35 percent, nearly four times the national average.
5. Estate and financial planning are truly necessary at any age to address the legal needs that someone facing this disease might have. Disturbingly, we are seeing people diagnosed younger and younger with Alzheimer’s. Our keynote speaker at the walk is a young woman from our area who was 18 when her mother was diagnosed at 49 with early-onset Alzheimer’s. This is no longer an old person’s disease.
— Pamela Higer-Polani
If You Go
The Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funs for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Walks are held throughout the country; however, this is the first walk in Boca Raton.
When: Registration begins at 6: 30 a.m. Oct. 11; the opening ceremony and awards are at 7:30 a.m., and the walk begins at 8 a.m. (The West Palm Beach Walk will be held on Oct. 18 at Meyer Amphitheater.)
Where: Mizner Park Amphitheater, 590 Plaza Real, Boca Raton
Info: (800) 272-3900 or www.alz.org/walk or to volunteer or become a sponsor, call walk manager Jessie Brooks at the Alzheimer’s Association at (561) 967-0047, Ext. 308.