By Kelly Bell/ETR
Longview’s Heritage Plaza will be the site on the morning of Saturday, September 23, where East Texans will come together for the annual five-kilometer Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Registration will commence at 7:30am. The opening ceremony will be at 8:30, and the walk itself will start at 9:00. To register online visit act.alz.org/easttexas. There is no charge for the walk, but contributions are encouraged to finance the crusade against this insidious illness that afflicts our loved ones and friends.
Alzheimer’s is not a normal, unavoidable part of the aging process, but it is the most common form of dementia, which is a generic term describing memory loss and other cognitive ability loss to the point it interferes with sufferers’ daily lives. Alzheimer’s accounts for a full 60% to 80% of all dementia cases.
The older a person becomes the more likely he will develop Alzheimer’s. Many patients are aged 65 or older, although it is not exclusively a disease of the extremely aged. In this country, there are at least 200,000 patients 65 and younger with early onset Alzheimer’s. As a progressive disease, its symptoms worsen over time. At first memory loss is mild, but will gradually, steadily worsen until sufferers cannot even carry on a conversation or react to their environment.
Few realize that Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in America, having killed such famous people as Ronald Reagan, Charleston Hesston and Rita Hayworth. Most patients pass away after about eight years, but some linger on as long as 20, depending on age and other physical conditions.
Presently there is no cure, but ongoing research has produced treatments that can slow the progression of symptoms and improve sufferer’s quality of life and ease caregivers’ burden. There is a worldwide movement dedicated to improving Alzheimer’s treatment, delay its onset and prevent it from developing in the first place. The most common early symptom is an inability to retain newly learned information.
Like every other organ in the human body, the brain changes with the passage of time. Most people will develop memory problems, but drastic deterioration of memory, constant confusion. mood swings, disorientation, behavior changes and other significant problems with brain functions indicate the brain’s cells are failing. These symptoms may worsen with patients forgetting the meaning of events, time and place and developing unfounded suspicions about family, friends and caregivers. Eventually, sufferers’ memory will essentially disappear, they will lose the ability to speak, walk and even swallow. Because of this mental disintegration, Alzheimer’s patients frequently fail to realize (or forget) that they have a problem.
When family and loved ones detect the signs of onset Alzheimer’s they should consult a doctor immediately. Local Alzheimer’s Association chapters can assist in locating physicians who specialize in treating dementia. Because treatment options are constantly improving, there is an excellent chance of slowing the illness’ progression and symptoms.