Students promote Alzheimer’s awareness
Published: Friday, September 21, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 21, 2012 07:09
Students across campus today will be wearing the color purple to take action and create awareness.
Today is Alzheimer’s Action Day, sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association. People across the country have been asked to wear purple to promote awareness for the disease.
Alzheimer’s is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually the ability to carry out simple, everyday tasks.
Symptoms usually develop slowly, beginning with memory loss and getting worse over time.
"The primary goal of Alzheimer’s Action Day is to raise awareness about the 5.4 million Americans and the 48,000 West Virginians with Alzheimer’s disease," said Carisa Collins, regional coordinator of the Alzheimer’s Association, West Virginia Chapter.
Collins said Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and, for people older than the age of 65, it’s the fifth leading cause.
"The thing that shocked me when I first came to the Alzheimer’s Association is that Alzheimer’s is the only disease in the top 10 leading causes of death that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed in its progress," Collins said.
Before beginning the job with the Alzheimer’s Association, Collins said even she didn’t understand the reality of the disease.
"My great-grandmother had Alzheimer’s, but I was a kid so I didn’t really know what was going on," Collins said. "I just remember that Grandma didn’t know my name from time to time, and now that I’m starting to talk with people more and more, it’s almost that everyone seems to have a connection with the disease."
Not only does the Alzheimer’s Association help those suffering from Alzheimer’s, it also offers support for the caregivers.
In the United States, there are more than 15 million unpaid Alzheimer’s caregivers and more than 108,000 caregivers in West Virginia alone.
Collins said its important to remember that the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are not just a normal part of aging.
"In order to fight this disease, society needs to change it’s perspective and decide that Alzheimer’s is a serious, fatal disease," she said. "We need to support those around us suffering from the disease and support those caregivers and loved ones because Alzheimer’s can tear a family apart if they don’t reach out for help."
Progress is being made and new information is discovered about Alzheimer’s all the time, Collins said.
"Research is coming up, but we still have a long way to go," Collins said. "In order to find a cure, we need to devote more time, more energy and more dollars to research."
Founded in 1980, the Alzheimer’s Association is the leading global voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care and support, as well as the largest private, nonprofit founder of Alzheimer’s research. Its mission is "to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research, to provide and enhance care and support for all affected, and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health."
"We are always looking for great volunteers here at the Alzheimer’s Association, West Virginia Chapter," Collins said.
The association also has a 24/7 helpline that can be reached at 800-272-3900.
The money raised by the West Virginia chapter goes directly to people within West Virginia, Collins said. The funds make it possible for the chapter to continue the 24/7 helpline, support groups, community workshops, outreach and free care consultations throughout the state.
"We need to help those people who are right here in our own backyard," Collins said. "Defeating Alzheimer’s takes an entire village."
"We still don’t know what causes it, how to prevent it, and what to do about it, so that’s why we need to raise awareness. Alzheimer’s disease death rates are rising, and we need to put a stop to it."