NEW RICHMOND -- The Kiers — including sons Greg, Jeff, Steve and their families — will honor their father, Dr. Milton Kier, by taking part in the Western Wisconsin Walk To End Alzheimer’s Saturday, Sept. 21, at New Richmond High School, 650 New Richmond Way.
“Mental health is a major issue today. There aren’t enough facilities, there aren’t enough caregivers, and there aren’t enough resources to adequately address the needs of those in need,” Greg said. “We were very fortunate to already be in a great facility and were even more fortunate to have openings for added levels of care at exactly the right time. We were blessed to have the support Dad needed, but most are not as fortunate.”
The Western Wisconsin Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which starts at 9 a.m. with registration starting at 8 a.m., will feature the Kier family’s T.K.O. -- Team Kier Outing Alzheimer’s -- as well as other teams and families.
“This walk is to benefit the care, support, education, advocacy and research efforts of the Alzheimer's Association,” Greg said. “We are honoring our father and all those who deal with Alzheimer's. We also want to make sure people know they can join our team to walk for Alzheimer's by going to alz.org/walk.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and without any research breakthroughs, this number could grow to nearly 14 million by midcentury. Additionally, more than 16 million family members and friends provide care to people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. In Wisconsin alone, there are more than 110,000 people living with the disease and 195,000 caregivers.
The Western Wisconsin Walk is one of 600 walks held nationwide.
“We are honored to chair the event even though our family does not have a long history of dealing with Alzheimer's,” Jeff said. “Dad will be 90 next year and continues to be in fine health physically. His blood pressure even at his age would make many people jealous. Having idolized my ead for almost 90-years, it is terribly sad to see him unable to care for himself or even remember where his room is in the memory care unit. He is living out the final years of his life in peace and happiness!”
According to the Kiers, Dr. Milton Kier was awarded the Wisconsin “Father of Community Education” award in 1974 for bringing lifelong learning to the state. Milton was an educational leader, superintendent of schools, Wall of Fame inductee for Unity Schools, a federal grant writer, college professor and innovator of technology when nobody knew what a personal computer or fiber optic lines were. Milton was also a Korean War Veteran.
“Once Mom passed away, Dad really went downhill quickly. The loss of our mother and his wife was significant in and of itself, but now we were dealing with a father who couldn’t be trusted to be left alone for very long,” Greg said. “Little things we had taken for granted: answering his phone, being able to tell time, and even realizing he needed to go to the bathroom … were all slipping from Dad’s memory. It was difficult enough for me to see, because I saw him every day. It was a real jolt for my brothers, nephews, and sons to see after only a few months.”
One of the biggest reasons Jeff said he supports the Walk to End Alzheimer’s is to raise awareness about people who prey on vulnerable adults with the disease, taking their money and dignity. Jeff also wants to raise awareness about how some insurance companies sell long-term care insurance to the elderly then deny claims because they are “losing money on these policies.”
“The pain and anguish my parents went through fighting for what was rightfully theirs is just not right and the public needs to hear about it. We will do our best to help and support this effort!” Jeff said.
According to Greg, Milton is currently in good spirits, participating in activities, goes to church from time to time and is very happy to see his family when they come to visit.
“Milton is reverting back to childhood but is happy and well cared for. He often says he wants to go home … and home is where he was born … a farm house near Marshfield, Wis. He also asks about Mom a lot,” Greg said. “We’d like to have our mom back, and, to be honest, we’d like to have our dad back, too. Mom has passed away. Dad is still with us but his memories are fading. Our opportunity is to keep sharing those memories with others and to fight for a cure. The Father of Community Education wouldn’t want it any other way.”
For more information about the Walk to End Alzheimer’s or the Western Wisconsin Walk, visit alz.org/walk.