Stepping out to end Alzheimer's

The Middle Peninsula/Northern Neck (MPNN) Alzheimer's Association Greater Richmond Chapter is taking action to help change the staggering growth of Alzheimer's disease in the U.S.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, Alzheimer's disease is "a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior."

Though symptoms usually develop slowly, they worsen over time and could become severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.

Today, more than five million Americans have Alzheimer's disease with more on the rise; medical experts expect the number of cases to increase to 13 million in the next 15 years.

In response to these alarming figures, the MPNN Association is hosting a Walk to End Alzheimer's on Saturday, September 21 at Botetourt Elementary School in Gloucester (6361 Main Street, Gloucester). Registration begins at 9 a.m., the program starts at 9:30 a.m., and the walk begins at 10 a.m.

The event includes a free one-mile and three-mile walk. Those interested in walking for the cause should visit: and register a team or join one that is already formed. Teams raise funds through a variety of fundraisers. Every walker that raises $100 will receive the 2013 walk t-shirt. People may also register and donate without walking.

As of Monday, September 9, 29 teams and 286 walkers had registered.

The Walk to End Alzheimer's is the nation's largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer's care support and research. The money raised will support, services, education and respite scholarships for the 10 counties it covers, including King William, King & Queen, and West Point.

"More than half of all Americans know someone with Alzheimer's disease," said Ellie Galloway, regional director of the MPNN Alzheimer's Association Greater Richmond Chapter. "Soon, no one will be left untouched."

West Point resident Carole [she asked that her last name be withheld] has firsthand knowledge of how Alzheimer's affects patients and families.

Carole's husband, Barrie, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's when he was 72 years-old. Although he spent the next eight years battling the disease, Carole says he never lost his spirit.

"He was a charming, happy-go-lucky fellow. He would often entertain people with his harmonica," she said. "People loved him."

Carole and Barrie moved from New York to West Point in October 2011 to be closer to their daughter. Shortly after moving to Town, Carole searched for a place where her husband could socialize. One day when reading the Tidewater Review, Carole came across an article about the local West Point Alzheimer's Caregiver Support Group, offered by MPNN Alzheimer's Association.

After joining the group, Carole was told about the Bay Aging Adult Day Break, which was partially funded by a MPNN Association scholarship.

"Bay Aging would pick him up and bring him home two days a week," said Carole. "He loved the bus driver and had a great time at the center."

According to Carole, the center offered Barrie not only transportation, but also meals (breakfast, a hot lunch, and snack), craft activities, line dancing, TV, DVDs, music, parties, and the opportunity to walk, one of his favorite past times.

Barrie, a former caricature and cartoon artist, also spent time drawing in a sketchbook. The MPNN Alzheimer's Association often displayed his work in the "Memories in the Making" art exhibits.

For Carole, the disease that took her husband's memory was kinder to him than to many others. The mother of four girls, Carole was able to care for her husband, who could still bathe and feed himself.

"He was Mr. Easy. I was very fortunate," she said.

Carole helped Barrie with what she calls the "day-to-day stuff," including picking out his clothes, making sure he was dressed appropriately, giving him his medicine every day, and driving him around Town.