There is nothing so horrific as losing your memories. You forget who you are and where you’ve been. You even forget who you love.
This is the reality of Alzheimer’s Disease. For millions of Americans and their families, it is a challenge that they face every single day. The most recent statistics from the National Alzheimer’s Association indicate that more than five million individuals in America have been diagnosed with the disease. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the only one among the top 10 that cannot be cured or slowed.
Andrea Mickelson, director of relationships for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Coastal Chapter, says that Georgians are also impacted greatly.
“There are 140,000 Georgians that we know have been diagnosed. The problem with Alzheimer’s is that individuals don’t always get an official diagnosis. They chalk up to normal aging,” she said.
Older men and women are certainly the demographic most associated with the disease. But in recent years, more and more younger people are being diagnosed.
“It is a common misconception that this is an ‘old person’s disease’ and it is not. Younger folks are now being diagnosed. Early onset Alzheimer’s is usually in the early 50s but in some very rare cases it can happen in the 30s,” Mickelson said.
That is why spreading awareness and raising fund for research is so critical. While Alzheimer’s cannot be cured or slowed, the effort to stop the disease is ongoing. One way, Mickelson says, that national organizations are combating it is by holding community fundraisers. Two such events are on the horizon in Glynn and Camden counties. The Walk to End Alzheimer’s will begin with registration at 9 a.m. Saturday at Neptune Park on St. Simons Island. The second will be held at 9 a.m. Oct. 21 in Camden County.
Similar events will be held in more than 600 communities nationwide. The Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for care, support and research. Mickelson says that these events are incredibly important in the fight against the disease.
“Alzheimer’s and dementia are brutal diseases. In most cases, families are not equipped to deal with them. A lot of families are not even aware of what’s going on in the earlier stages. They haven’t gotten a diagnosis,” she said. “That is why raising awareness is so important. We want to remove the stigma and raise funds to support research as well as local programs and services. A list of those can be found on our website — https://act.alz.org — but it includes things like a 24/7 help line, support groups and training for caregivers and family.”
On Saturday, the event will seek to raise funds through donations to participate in the 3-mile walk around St. Simons Island. It is free and open to the public, including all ages, however donations are strongly encouraged. The event, Mickelson adds, will be a fun and uplifting one, all the while supporting an important cause.
“I think everybody needs to come out and support the walk because it is very rare that you haven’t been touched in some way by this disease. Most people have it in their family or they have close friends with it in their families,” she said. “Plus, everyone is at risk, if we don’t find a cure.”
While participants can sign up for free on Saturday, Mickelson is hopeful that they will register online beforehand to ease confusion and wait times prior to the event.
“It will be easier to register online before the event. That way, we won’t have people standing in lines,” she said. “But we will have registration that day too. The event is free for all but everyone is encouraged to try to set fundraising goals. We want as many people come out as possible and, of course, wear their purple.”