When one family member suffers from Alzheimer’s, the entire family is affected, physician Juan Velazquez said as he joined the inaugural Walk for Alzheimer’s on Nov. 3 at Bucklin Park in El Centro.
He speaks from experience; not only does he treat such patients at Clinicas Salud del Pueblo in Brawley, his mother suffers from the disease.
“It starts to get hard for the caretaker when they see their family member start forgetting. She knows who I am but has lots of complications,” Velazquez lamented.
With November being Alzheimer’s caretaker’s month, the Alzheimer’s Association of San Diego and Imperial County determined it would be good time to hold its inaugural walk.
Kristin Cusato of the Alzheimer’s Association delivered an emotional speech in
the opening ceremony.
Sharing the impact of the disease, she noted, “Someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s every 65 seconds. That means almost 200,000 have or show early signs of the disease in the U.S.”
Localizing the impact, Rosie Blankehship, director of the Imperial County Area Agency on Aging said, “There are over 2,300 individuals suffering from dementia in the Imperial County. That number is predicted to grow to 6,000 by 2030.”
Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia and has a slow onset but develops quickly causing problems with memory, thinking and behaviors. The disease eventually becomes so severe it interferes with common daily tasks.
At the event more than 100 local residents raised money for the Alzheimer’s Association by walking laps around Bucklin Park. Each participant carried a color-specific flower as they walked: orange flowers by those who are concerned about the disease; purple flowers for those who have lost someone to the disease; yellow for caregivers; and blue flowers for those afflicted with the disease.
Amidst the floral arrangement, one flower held a unique position. Because there is yet no known cure for Alzheimer’s, the white flower represented the first person who will survive it.
“Soon, we will have the first survivor,” Cusato said. “$11 million in federal funding was recently awarded for Alzheimer’s research to UCSD (University of California, San Diego) and the Salk Institute in San Diego. Every day scientists are learning more.”
Cusato emphasized prevention of the disease and encouraged creating a lifestyle that supports psychological well-being: “Do anything you can that is good for your brain like exercising, diet, cognitive stimulation, and social interaction.”
From his experience Velazquez shared some advice.
“Acknowledge the changes they are going through and get treatment right away. The earlier the disease is diagnosed the better,” he said.
Resources for Alzheimer’s patients and their families are listed on the website www.alz.org. Locally, resources are available through the Area Agency for Aging at (442) 265-7033.