Seeing a loved one who doesn’t recognize you any more or just sits in silence ravages an entire family emotionally, according to families affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s is a general term for loss of memory and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the nation’s sixth-leading cause of death, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Rosey Thomas, widow of former Crawford County President Judge P. Richard Thomas, said her husband had the disease for 10 years before he passed away Aug. 31, 2011.
“It’s devastating not only to the person, but to the whole family,” said Mrs. Thomas said to more than 225 walkers before Sunday’s kickoff of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s fund-raiser at Roche Park in Vernon Township. She served as honorary chair of this year’s walk.
Shirley Temple of Meadville, a retired registered nurse, also shared her story of watching her husband, Ken, suffer with the disease for eight years before he passed away in 2009.
To cope with her emotions during her husband’s period of failing health, Temple said she resorted to a “silent scream” whenever it got the best of her. She’d go into a room, hold her arms out to each side and then act as though she were screaming — but silently — to release her stress.
An estimated 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, with about 400,000 in Pennsylvania, but those numbers are expected to increase as the Baby Boomer generation ages.
The more than 225 people who turned out Sunday afternoon to walk were raising money for both the area and national chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association. The walk raised an estimated $18,900 for programming and research efforts, according to organizers.
Participants also learned how to get involved through advocacy opportunities, the latest in Alzheimer’s research and enrollment in clinical drug trials to learning about local support programs and services.
The Greater Pennsylvania Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association offers free programs and community education, according to Angela Grimm, its vice president of development. The Alzheimer’s Association also has a 24-hour/seven-day help line for people to find support groups and care consultation, she added.
The Alzheimer’s Association help line operates 24 hours per day, seven days per week, toll-free, at (800) 272-3900. Help also is available online at alz.org/pa.
Alzheimer’s support groups that meet in Crawford County, according to the Greater Pennsylvania Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, are:
-Second Tuesday of the month — 7 p.m. at Juniper Village, 255 Chestnut St., Meadville, 333-4400;
-Third Monday — 6:30 p.m. at Community Center of Crawford County, 1034 Park Ave., Meadville, 336-1792;
-Third Thursday — 6 p.m. at Cambridge Springs Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, 110 Canfield St., 398-4626.
You can help
Monetary donations for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s may be sent to the Erie office of the Greater Pennsylvania Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, 1128 State St., Suite 301, Erie, Pa. 16501.