Alzheimer’s walk set for Saturday

Published 8:55 pm Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Participants in the 2010 Western Tidewater Walk to End Alzheimer’s set off on the course at Constant’s Wharf. The 2012 event is being held this weekend.

The Alzheimer’s Association is bringing its annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s to Suffolk for the third year in a row.

The event is set for this Saturday at Constant’s Wharf, 110 E. Constance Road. Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m., and walkers will set off around 10 a.m.

It will be a meaningful day for Diana Morris, a Smithfield resident who works at Smithfield Foods, a sponsor of the walk. Her husband Wayne died last year from Alzheimer’s disease, just after his 69th birthday.

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Wayne was a collector of Civil War memorial, “farm boy,” self-taught artist and business owner, Morris wrote in an email. He took great pride in the couple’s home and enjoyed transforming the 6-acre parcel into a park-like setting.

But Morris said she realized something was wrong when her husband couldn’t balance the checkbook, tell time or control his emotions.

“He was a little eccentric and had suffered from depression throughout the years,” she wrote in an email. “So when it first started, I thought it was just his depression and his eccentric behavior getting worse with age.”

But when she noticed he couldn’t perform basic functions, they went to a doctor, who diagnosed him with Alzheimer’s.

For a while, Wayne stayed at home, Morris wrote. But when he became violent and almost nothing could calm him down, she had him admitted to a series of psychiatric units and dementia care facilities, one of which would become the place where he died.

“This only touches the surface of what life was like for Wayne and myself,” Morris wrote. “It is a horrible disease, and our population is growing older. There are a lot of families out there that are trying to cope, feeling hopeless and with nowhere to turn. I support the Association’s efforts as a way to fight back because so many people can’t fight anymore.”

Alzheimer’s disease is the nation’s sixth-leading cause of death. About 5.4 million Americans currently live with it.

“There has never been a greater need for the citizens of southeastern Virginia to join in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease by participating in Walk to End Alzheimer’s,” Angela Wright, the Western Tidewater Walk to End Alzheimer’s chair, said in a press release. “Funds raised will provide care and support services to the 130,000 residents of Virginia living with Alzheimer’s, while also contributing to advancing critically-needed research.”

After Saturday’s walk, participants will have the chance to visit sponsor’s tables and join in a meaningful ceremony to honor those affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

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