Group prepares for memory walk

Published 10:34 pm Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sarah Smith knows how debilitating Alzheimer’s disease can be.

It’s been 13 years since her grandmother was diagnosed with the neurological disorder.

“People always ask me why I’m involved, and I always tell people it’s in my family,” she said. “That’s the point for them to get involved too. You don’t have it in your family now, so do something about it now, while you can.”

For those looking for a way to get involved, they will have that opportunity in two weeks when the Western Tidewater Memory Walk will be held Oct. 17 at 9 a.m. in Smithfield.

All the money raised from the event will go to the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, which will help provide community support for patients who have been diagnosed with the disease and help provide support for their families.

Specifically, Smith said, the association is working to build awareness of its Safe Return Program. The program enrolls people when they have initially been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and gives them an identifiable bracelet or pendant with national emergency response information.

If a participating Alzheimer’s patient ever wanders off or is lost, he can be found more easily and then returned home safely.

According to the 2009 World Alzheimer Report, more than 35 million people worldwide are living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. The report also said that the number of people with Alzheimer’s is expected to about double every 20 years.

While Smith said these type of numbers are daunting, the right research and medical developments today can help prevent other families from having to deal with the disease as her family has.

“There’s nothing I can do to help my grandmother where she is right now,” Smith said. “There’s no cure, but through the Memory Walk and the funds we raise – that’s how we’re going to make a difference. One day, we won’t have to even deal with this. It’s very important to get involved and raise money now, so this is a thing of the past.”

Last year, the Memory Walk has held in Suffolk, but Smith said the chapter decided to move it to another community to help raise greater awareness.

Participants can register the day of the event or online at www.alz.org/memorywalk/.

Registration will begin at 9 a.m. Oct. 17, and the walk will begin at 10 a.m. on Joyner Field on Main Street in Smithfield.