Greater North Valley Office
Thanks to advances in science and medicine, Americans are now living much longer lives than a century ago. One of the consequences of a longer lifespan, though, is the increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s estimated that 10 percent of the population over the age of 65 has the disease, while the number grows closer to 50 percent for those people 85 and older.
Nationally, approximately 4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s. Of that number, more than 4,000 live in Butte County. Because the population is aging, it is estimated that by the middle of this century 14 million people nationwide will have Alzheimer’s, unless a cure or prevention is found.
That’s why the Alzheimer’s Association supports advocacy on Alzheimer’s and related memory issues before the federal, state and local governments. Furthermore, the Alzheimer’s Association is the largest private funder of research into the causes, treatment, prevention and cure of Alzheimer’s disease.
The research has resulted in some recent breakthroughs. There are now four FDA-approved drugs available to temporarily relieve symptoms of the disease. According to Rebecca Robinson, program director for the association’s Greater North Valley office, a vaccine may only be a decade away.
Until that cure is found, the Alzheimer’s Association provides information, support and education for individuals and families affected by Alzheimer’s. In fact, the local chapter traces its history back to a grassroots group of caregivers and health professionals who met as an informal support group before seeking more formal Alzheimer’s Association chapter status in 1986.
The disease takes an extraordinary financial, emotional and physical toll on a patient’s family. That was one of the prime motivations to start “Millie’s Place,” an adult day program at the association’s Paradise location.
The day program offers recreational activities, mental stimulation and social interaction for its participants in a homelike environment. Knowing that their loved one is in a safe, secure location offers meaningful respite to the caregivers.
Robinson stresses that Alzheimer’s is a very challenging disease, with one of the biggest challenges being the isolation that patients and their caregivers experience. So when hundreds of people converge in Bidwell Park on Oct. 13 to participate in the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk, it will be for a much deeper reason than to simply raise funds: They want to raise awareness, too.
The walk is scheduled to start that day at 10 a.m. at the park’s One Mile Recreation Area, with registration beginning an hour earlier. Walkers can choose between a one- or three-mile route through the park and will find informational booths from sponsors at the end of the event. There will also be refreshments, music and a raffle.
Walkers can sign up individually or as part of a team. While not required, most walkers choose to raise money to support the Alzheimer’s Association. Participants who raise contributions of $25 receive a commemorative T-shirt. Other incentives, each with the Memory Walk logo, await walkers who turn in higher dollar contributions.
Additional information on the walk or a “Team Tool Kit” is available by calling the association’s office.
Memory Walk Coordinator Michelle Heston agrees that the event has a “therapeutic value,” with many of the participants walking in memory or in honor of a friend or family member who has Alzheimer’s.
“They’re there to do something about it," she concluded.