Wednesday, July 4, 2001

Local speaker shares facts about Alzheimer's


More than four million Americans, including about 180,000 Georgians suffer from Alzheimer's disease.

Not only does the disease affect the individual sufferer, but family care givers, most often elderly spouses, often become ill and may even die from the stresses of 24-hour-a-day long-term care of the sufferer.

With more than 76 million baby boomers currently, the expectation is that without a cure more than 14 million Americans will have Alzheimer's by the year 2050. One-half of those 85 or older have Alzheimer's, a disease that most commonly affects those over the age of 65.

According to Dr. Paul Colon, founder of Governor's Glen Memory Impaired Community in Forest Park, the annual cost of caring for those who suffer from Alzheimer's exceeds $100 billion a year. Colon was the key speaker at the 2001 Southern Crescent Memory Walk kickoff last week at the Wyndham Peachtree Conference Center.

A group of more than 40 local business leaders, volunteers and supporters met for breakfast to learn a little more about the affects of Alzheimer's disease and what they could do to help in raising money to support the fight against the disease.

Colon related his experiences and what he had learned during the six years he cared for his mother before her death from the disease. He wove facts about the devastating disease among the personal story of her decline.

Stressing the importance of proper nutrition in the treatment and prevention of the disease, he noted that those with high fat and high cholesterol diets have a higher incidence of developing Alzheimer's.

He also stated that Alzheimer's is not a "normal part of aging." Brain cells are destroyed resulting in a decline of mental functions that affect memory, thinking, language and behavior. It is still not known why the chemical and structural changes in brain tissue occur.

Although there is not a cure for the disease, early diagnosis can slow and prevent some of the progress of dementia and other symptoms. Probable diagnosis is made through a combination of memory testing, blood work, brain scans and other testing. Currently diagnosis of the disease can only be made with complete certainty after death by examining the brain.

There are two forms of Alzheimer's sporadic and genetic. Those with genetic Alzheimer's develop the disease earlier and decline faster.

Researchers have identified a gene that is responsible for some forms of Alzheimer's.

Some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's include forgetfulness and memory loss, disorientation, confusion, personality and emotional changes, a loss of the ability to talk, move or do any self-care. Colon said the symptoms vary from person to person and change as the disease progresses.

Treatment of the non-curable disease focuses on control of related illnesses, nutrition, regular exercise, environmental changes, appropriate activities and medication. Socialization is an important key in combating the symptoms of the disease Colon mentioned, referring to the major improvements his mother made when placed in a rehab center. Per an earlier request to her son not to be placed in a nursing home, Colon cared for his mother at home utilizing Alzheimer's Day-Care, nurses and family. When she broke her hip and was recuperating in a rehabilitation center, she began talking, smiling and interacting again.

Former Mayor Fred Brown and Iola Snow are cochairing the 2001 Southern Crescent Memory Walk. The walk has already garnered the support of some local businesses. Coweta-Fayette EMC donated $10,000 to the organization for the second year and Gold's Gyms of Fayette County have again volunteered to lead the morning warm-up exercises, will be a sponsor and have committed to a sponsorship. Additionally they have volunteered the use of their meeting room and outdoor lagoon pool for the team captain's kickoff rally July 17 and a special thank-you party for sponsors. Dogwood Forest and Ashley Glen Assisted Living are cosponsoring the team captain's kickoff.

Lyn Amos, Home Source Realtors and Tony Armstrong will cochair the Team Walk Committee. According to Amos, the response has been good thus far. Home Source Realtors, Ashley Glen Assisted Living, Dogwood Forest, Gold's Gym, Coweta-Fayette EMC, World Gym, Merrill Lynch and the Wyndham Peachtree Conference Center have signed up to sponsor a team. Home Source Realtors plans to issue a challenge to other Realtors to join in the walk.

The purpose of the walk, which involves Fayette, Coweta, and Clayton counties, is to raise money for research, counseling, financial assistance, support groups and educational programs for those coping with the disease. A portion of the money is also used to help make people aware of the disease.

Last year 61 teams participated in the first walk to raise $73,185. The Memory Walk will be held Saturday, Oct. 6 at the Frederick Brown Jr. Amphitheater. Registration for the 5k Walk will begin at 8 a.m.; runners will take off at 9:15 a.m. with walkers right behind them at 9:30 a.m.

The Team Captain Kick-Off Rally, sponsored by Dogwood Forest, Ashley Glen and Gold's Gym, will be held at Gold's Gym Peachtree City East at 6 p.m. July 17. The Gym is located on Hwy. 54 near Publix and Ace Hardware. Those interested in forming a team should contact Lyn Amos (770-487-9722 or 770-487-0989) or Tony Armstrong (678-296-0872).

For sponsorship or other information, Fred Brown, 770-487-8397 or Iola Snow, 770-486-6991.

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