Herald Journal - Enterprise Dispatch - Delano Herald Journal
Local memory walk to fight Alzheimer’s Oct. 9
Sept. 27, 2010

By Starrla Cray
Staff Writer

Take a walk down “memory lane” Saturday, Oct. 9, and raise funds to help people with Alzheimer’s and related diseases.

The Legacy of Delano and Golden LivingCenter in Delano are sponsoring a memory walk, with all proceeds to benefit the Minnesota/South Dakota chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Registration is at 9 a.m., and the walk will start at 9:30 a.m. at the Legacy of Delano, 1350 St. Peter Avenue East.

Walkers will take a short stroll (about one mile) along city walking paths, and end back at the Legacy of Delano. If it rains, the walk will be indoors.

Health care exhibitors will have booths with information along the walk. The cost for a booth is $25.

Walkers can attend the event for free, and the first 50 participants will receive a complementary t-shirt.

“The walk is open to anyone,” said Renae Witschen, executive director of the Legacy of Delano. “We’re just asking for donations.”

Free snacks from area businesses will also be available during the walk.

At about 9:15 a.m., Wright County Commissioner Jack Russek will be speaking about a loved one of his who had Alzheimer’s.

“There are about 5.3 million Americans with Alzheimer’s,” Witschen said. “It’s a brain disorder that destroys the brain cells and causes memory loss.”

The progressive and fatal disease has no cure, and is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.

“We’re trying to raise awareness and money,” said Golden LivingCenter executive director Ernie Gershone.

Gershone knows the challenges that come with Alzheimer’s, and he hopes that someday, the disease will be treatable.

“It’s hard,” he said. “You have a parent or spouse who isn’t the same.”

People with memory loss need more supervision, because they might accidentally leave a stove on, forget to lock their front door, or leave a car running.

“You hear stories about people who wander out of the house and end up on the street at night,” Gershone said.

If someone has symptoms of memory loss, Gershone said it’s important to get a proper diagnosis.

“There are different kinds of dementia, and as a caregiver, you want to know what response to make,” he said.

“The earlier someone receives treatment and medical intervention, the better,” Witschen added. Medications and care techniques can greatly enhance a patient’s quality of life.

Some of the ways caregivers can help include creating a calm environment, monitoring the patient’s comfort, avoiding arguing about facts, and remaining flexible and supportive, according to the Alzheimer’s Association website.

Before she died, Gershone’s mother suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which causes shortness of breath and memory loss, among other issues.

“She became more and more confused,” Gershone said.

Once, when she was driving, she blanked out and had to pull over.

“She just got completely lost, and had no idea where she was or where she was going,” Gershone said. “She never drove after that.”

When memory loss becomes a safety issue, it can result in tough decisions for caregivers.

“Taking someone’s keys away, that’s a horrible thing to have to do,” Gershone said.

Many patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s only forget recent memories.

“Long-term memory often stays intact,” Gershone said. “People remember trivia from when they were kids. We have groups of people who play trivia games here. Some of the most confused people can remember who Herbert Hoover’s vice president was, or complete a song title, but if you ask them what they had for breakfast, they have no clue.”

Sometimes, memory loss patients will say things that don’t seem to make any sense. When that happens, it’s usually best to acknowledge them and gently get them back on track.

“You’ve got to kind of go with the flow with people,” Gershone said.

For more information about the memory walk, contact Witschen at (763) 972-2333 or Gershone at (763) 972-2987.

To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease, go to www.alz.org or call 877-IS-IT-ALZ (877-474-8259).

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