Something we shouldn’t forget

Published 10:14 pm Friday, September 21, 2012

Alzheimer’s disease unfortunately touches many people across the world. It is a cruel disease that robs people of a lifetime of memories.

Suffolk is hosting the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s to help raise awareness, remember those affected and raise funds for research in the effort to find a cure.

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

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After today’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.

The Alzheimer’s Association describes the disease as a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.

My paternal grandmother suffered from the disease in the last years of her life. It started slowly. I remember her asking when my parents would arrive at the restaurant, but they were sitting at the same table with us. I think we brushed it off that she misspoke, but then the clues became too hard to ignore.

Gone was the grandmother who freely gave hugs and had desserts on hand. Someone who didn’t even remember my name had replaced her. It was confusing and upsetting for her and the family.

During one visit, she had forgotten that my grandfather has passed away. We had to tell her, and she started crying as if it had just happened — he had passed away five years prior.

One day, she was panicked, wondering why my father hadn’t come home from school. She had to be reassured that my dad was at home with his wife and children. My aunt had to move in to help my grandmother, but it soon became too much for her to handle.

Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects the whole family. And we, like many others, had to wrestle with the decision of whether to put her in a nursing home.

For those who want to know more about the disease, the Alzheimer’s Association provides this basic information:

4Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50 to 80 percent of dementia cases.

4Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, although the greatest known risk factor is increasing age, and the majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older. But Alzheimer’s is not just a disease of old age. Up to 5 percent of people with the disease have early onset Alzheimer’s, which often appears when someone is in his 40s or 50s.

4Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease in which symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment.

4Alzheimer’s has no current cure, but treatments for symptoms are available, and research continues.

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