The End of Alzheimer’s Starts with You
by Maureen McGarry
John Schmit took care of his mother, Margaret, who suffered from Alzheimer's.
On Saturday, October 13th, 2018, our community has an opportunity to combat the life-threatening disease called Alzheimer’s. The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is a national signature event that raises research dollars to find a cure. Participants can sign up ahead of the event to encourage friends, family, and co-workers to support them with donations. The Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) is looking for volunteers to participate in this effort.
There are two routes around Old Town, Eureka, that are one-mile and two-and-a-half miles. Starting inside the Adorni Center on Waterfront Drive in Eureka, registration for the walk will begin at 10 a.m. The walk begins at 11 a. m. Walkers help raise money and public awareness. All are welcome, and although animals are not permitted inside the building during registration, walkers can bring pets on leashes.
Alzheimer’s causes a progression of mental deterioration affecting memory, thinking, and behavior. It is the third-leading cause of death in California, and the sixth-leading cause in the country. One of the reasons the numbers are so high in California is that life expectancy is higher in our state, and the onset of the disease is most prominent in adults over 65.
Currently, researchers are working on drugs that can help remove the plaque and tangles in the brain caused by the disease, helping memory to return. Studies are also focusing on the impact of lowering blood pressure, and analyzing the impact of diet and exercise. Some of these researchers feel they are on the cusp of a breakthrough, using clinical trials to test promising new drugs.
Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in America, costing more than heart disease or cancer. It is projected that in 2018, Medicare and Medicaid will spend $186 billion caring for people with dementia-related diseases. It is estimated that currently 5.5 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s.
The costs for caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is not only financial. There is often a ripple effect on the health of caregivers, who are often family members, due to both physical and emotional stress. Symptoms include sleep deprivation, lower immunity, depression, anxiety, and social isolation. Often there are financial challenges, including loss of earnings due to reduced employment.
John Schmit is assisting with the logistics of the Walk on the 13th and is the leader of a team in memory of his mother called Margie’s Memories. He took care of his mother who had Alzheimer’s for ten years and took advantage of local caregiver support groups.
“My mother was a wonderful person and very independent. She always helped others, and it was an honor to help her. It was the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life.” Schmit says it was a difficult transition for a person who didn’t want anyone to have to take care of her to deal with the reality of moving into his home.
“It’s a serious disease, a fatal disease, a disease that is all-consuming. It is something that is difficult because you don’t have the ability to stop it. It is going to progress so you have to be able to manage it.” Schmit feels that the support groups are great for sharing with others and learning about the resources that are available in our community. “It takes not just yourself, but many people to assist and share that burden.”
Schmit has sent out many letters to encourage people to join him. All participants are urged to form a team and help raise for this worthy cause.
For more information, go to act.alz.org/humboldt2018