By the time 2017 ends, the national cost of treating Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will top $259 billion.
But that doesn’t take into account the tremendous emotional toll the disease takes on the patient or the family members who love and care for them.
Alzheimer’s is among the top three diagnoses for residents currently living in Huron’s nursing homes, said Megan Kleinsasser, administrator at Violet Tschetter Memorial Home.
That’s why it’s so important to raise awareness and fund research to learn more, she said.
For the second year, VTMH will join SunQuest Healthcare Center in its annual Alzheimer’s Memory Walk. The event will be held Wednesday, with walking tacos being served from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the walk beginning at 2 p.m. from SunQuest to Tiger Stadium.
“The purpose of the walk is to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s and related dementias,” said Jenny Sorben, social worker at SunQuest.
Everyone is encouraged to wear purple, which is the color for Alzheimer’s Awareness.
Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss is an example, and Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia.
More than 5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease, a number expected to rise as high as 16 million by 2050.
Although considered an ailment of the elderly, 200,000 Americans younger than 65 suffer from younger-onset Alzheimer’s.
The most common early symptom is difficulty remembering newly learned information because Alzheimer’s typically begins in the part of the brain that affects learning.
As the disease advances, it leads to more severe symptoms, including disorientation, mood and behavior changes, including unfounded suspicions about those close to them.
In the U.S. alone, every 66 seconds someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
“I once heard a doctor explain it this way,” Sorben said. “People often say, ‘Where did I put my keys?’ That’s just a lapse of memory and nothing to worry about. It’s not knowing what the keys are for — that’s where it can be discerning.”
Sorben said SunQuest has been sponsoring an Alzheimer’s Walk for the past 20 years, and last year’s event netted the most money raised to date.
This year, SunQuest and VTMH will be joined by members of the Coalition on Aging, NARFE (National Active and Retired Federal Employees) and the Tri-M music students from Huron High School, an honor society for music.
“It’s getting bigger every year,” Sorben said. “The support of the community is outstanding.”
Everyone is invited to stop by on Wednesday to enjoy walking tacos and take part in the walk.
Donations are welcome. Make checks payable to the Alzheimer’s Association of South Dakota, and mail to SunQuest Healthcare Center, 1345 Michigan Ave. S.W., Huron, S.D. 57350.
Photo by Crystal Pugsley of the Plainsman
Megan Kleinsasser, left, administrator at Violet Tschetter Memorial Home, and Jenny Sorben, social worker at SunQuest Healthcare Center, are preparing for the upcoming Alzheimer’s Memory Walk they are sponsoring on Wednesday beginning with walking tacos from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at SunQuest HCC, followed by the walk at 2 p.m. to Tiger Stadium.