Helping those with Alzheimer's disease

Posted: Wednesday, August 23, 2000

Nearly all of us know someone who is affected by Alzheimer's, the dreadful disease which causes the degeneration of brain cells. This is not surprising, considering that half of the people over 85 have it. And for every person who has the disease, there are loved ones whose lives may be devastated as a result. It's time to take action!

On Saturday, Sept. 16, Juneau citizens of all ages will have a chance to make a difference by participating in the Alzheimer's Association Annual Memory Walk. The Memory Walk is a national event designed to bring awareness about the disease and to raise funds to help support persons affected by the disease. Organizers across the state aim to raise $80,000 with walks planning in Anchorage, Palmer, Juneau and Homer.

Persons interested in supporting this effort are invited to register at 9:30 a.m. on the morning of September 16 at the Tlingit & Haida Community Council Hall at 3235 Hospital Drive. The walk will begin at 10:30 a.m., working its way around the Twin Lakes path to the Pioneers Home, where residents will provide juice and cookies for the walkers. The walk will end back at the Tlingit & Haida Community Council Hall, with rewards of pizza and door prizes, plus awards for those who have raised the most money.

While a donation of $10 is requested of each walker, most of the funds will be raised by walkers collecting pledges or donations from friends prior to the walk. Individuals and walker teams that raise the most money will be eligible for grand prizes, including the statewide grand prize of a Caribbean cruise for two. Proceeds from the event will help the Alzheimer's Association to serve families throughout Alaska.

"The local chapter of Alzheimer's Association has been invaluable to me and member of my family," explains Rosemary Hagevig, the honorary chairperson for this year's Memory Walk. "They've helped us deal more realistically with day-to-day issues as well as planning for the future." For the past three years, both Rosemary and her sister Cecilia Wagoner have taken advantage of the Juneau support group, printed materials, videos and the knowledgeable staff to discuss difficult issues with.

Rosemary's mother has been diagnosed with Dementia and her aunt has Alzheimer's disease. Since her mother lives in Seattle, Rosemary is considered a "long-distance care giver." Her sister, Cathy Nance, who lives in Seattle, has had the most difficult job in the family, dealing with daily communication with the long-term care facility and with the rest of the family. "Going to the Alzheimer's Care Giver Support Group has helped keep all of this in perspective," she explains. "We had others to talk to who could understand how complicated dealing with these issues can be for families."

In Juneau, the Alzheimer's Care Giver Support Group meets the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month at 7:00 p.m. at the Juneau Senior Center. Glen Ray, outreach coordinator for our area, encourages all interested persons to call him at 586-6044. He is also the one to contact for Memory Walk registration/pledge forms.

If you have been touched by this disease in some way through seeing a loved one's health slowly decline, you are invited to help fight this disease through the Memory Walk. In fact, the Memory Walk presents an opportunity for all of us to reach out an help those family care givers who must manage each day at a time, not knowing what new challenges they'll face as they care for a loved one with Alzheimer's.

Marianne Mills oversees senior citizen programs for Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka as a member of Southeast Senior Services, a program of Catholic Community Services (CCS). CCS assists all persons regardless of their faith.

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