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By Andy Rausch and Joe Reinecker

Alzheimer’s is a disease that currently affects the families of approximately 5.7 million Americans. “Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia,” explains Fort Scott Medicalodge Administrator Lynette Emerson. “Dementia basically means memory loss. Sometimes people are just diagnosed with dementia because they don’t know what type of dementia it is.”

Statistics say that one in ten Americans who are age sixty-five and older has Alzheimer’s Disease. Of those, almost two-thirds of those inflicted are women.

Emerson says some signs to look for in loved ones are them forgetting how to do things they do every day. “A lot of people start forgetting how to get back home from a place they routinely travel to,” she said. “But if they’re having difficulty finding a new place, that’s different because directions can get mixed up. But if it’s something they have always known how to do, that’s troublesome.”

According to Emerson, another sign of Alzheimer’s is someone suddenly forgetting how to do basic functions in the home, like turning on the microwave. “My husband’s uncle is dealing with this now, and he’s always farmed and known everything about tractors. But now all of that seems very foreign to him. What’s happening is that the connectors in the brain are experiencing issues, such as plaque build-up. Those connectors aren’t making those connections anymore, so people don’t remember those routine things they’ve done before.”

Although there are currently no medications that can cure Alzheimer’s, there are a number of medications that will slow down the progress of the disease. “If someone gets started on that medication early, you do see the progression slow down tremendously as opposed to those who do not take the medication,” said Emerson.

Emerson also said it is important for Alzheimer’s patients to keep their minds stimulated and not isolated. “If someone isolates themselves, they’re not going to be using the functions of their brain,” said Emerson. “That’s the very worst thing a person with Alzheimer’s can do.” Emerson said activities like word searches and crossword puzzles are good ways for these individuals to stay stimulated. She said continuing to read and having conversations with other people are always beneficial.

Emerson said the Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which used to be called the Memory Walk, will be held on Saturday, September 15th, in Pittsburg. This year the walk will be held at Gorilla Village at Pitt State University. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for people who have family members struggling with Alzheimer’s or people who just want to support the cause to come together,” said Emerson. “It’s a morning event, and it’s a very easy two-mile walk. A lot of people use the walk as a family reunion, to get together and walk and remember their family members who have passed away with Alzheimer’s. There are other activities going on along with that, including music and a silent auction. I would really encourage people to come out and support the cause.”

Anyone interested in attending can register at eight a.m. that morning. There will be a ceremony at nine, with the walk following at nine-thirty.