Although an estimated 5.3 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's disease, many people don't know the signs, symptoms and care needed for people diagnosed with the disease. Today, the Alzheimer's Association is changing that with countless programs to help both those suffering from the disease as well as those caring for them.
Houston and Southeast Texas Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association board member Alex Bonetti has personally experienced the effects of having a loved one with the disease.
"I saw the toll that it took on my family," he says. "We’d see my grandmother and I’d visit with her and every visit you start to notice more and more of a decline. She would ask the same questions over and over again, and it was heartbreaking. She was an impressive woman so to see this disease take a toll on her in that way was tough."
According to Bonetti, 40 percent of those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease suffer from depression, and there's an estimated 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care done by family members and friends of those with Alzheimer's.
"Clearly we need to find a cure for this disease, but one thing that's fantastic about the Alzheimer's Association is that we have all these programs and services that also support the people that are caring for these people with the disease while we're in the process of finding a cure," Bonetti says. "That’s really the devastating toll. There's more people being impacted as a caregiver for someone with dementia than people that have dementia."
Programs and services
Bonetti is especially proud of the programs and services offered by the Houston and Southeast Texas Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, which range from educational resources online, a 24-hour helpline and care consultations to support groups, clinical trials and even fun activities for those suffering from the disease.
"The Alzheimer's Association recently partnered up with the Sugar Land Art Center and there were individuals there with the disease who created beautiful artwork," he says. "I met a caregiver and her loved one with the disease and she said it was an opportunity to get out of the house and for her loved one to participate in something that was meaningful for him. Those kinds of things make a big difference."
Walk to End Alzheimer's
Not only does the Alzheimer's Association provide services to caregivers and those with the disease, but the organization also provides a way for family and friends to show their support with the annual 2015 Walk to End Alzheimer's at Minute Maid Ballpark on Saturday, November 7.
"It’s an awesome day," Bonetti says of the Walk. “You see thousands of people coming together to raise money for this important cause and it’s also a ton of fun."
The event — which raised more than $67 million nationally in 2014 — is held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide and is the world's largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.
Registration for the event begins at 7:30 am before the walk starts at 9:30 am. With more than 400 teams and 2,300 walkers currently registered to participate, the Houston event has already raised more than $347,000 towards the goal this year.
It is the largest of 13 walks in the Houston area that hopes to raise a total of $1.7 million. A recent Woodlands Walk to End Alzheimer' attracted more than 2,000 participants and brought in nearly $163,000, with KHOU's Chita Johnson as emcee and U.S. Rep Kevin Brady was a part of the opening ceremony.
Whether you're looking to participate in the 2015 Walk to End Alzheimer's, seeking information about the disease or needing help caring for a loved one, the Houston and Southeast Texas Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association offers invaluable tools and assistance to those affected by this disease that affects so many Americans.