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Alzheimer's disease advocates seek public's help

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

A holiday campaign, which kicks off today, is aimed at generating money to fight Alzheimer's disease.

The Alzheimer's Service Center in Riverdale, which has clients from Henry, Clayton and other metro-Atlanta counties, is participating through Dec. 13, in a Fantasy Forest fund-raiser in the southern part of Fulton County, said Janice Coye, director of the center.

"We are trying to raise $20,000 to offset state funding cuts," Coye said.

The Riverdale center, along with a host of other agencies, was invited by Marjorie Morrow, coordinator of the Festival of Christmas Trees in Palmetto, Ga., to decorate a tree for public display, that patrons will pay from $1.50 to $5.50 to view at the Palmetto Community Center.

Riverdale's tree will be decorated based on a tropical theme and will feature hand-painted ornaments. The trees may be viewed by local groups from 9 a.m., to 2 p.m., and by the general public, from 4 to 8 p.m.

"The costs are high for adult daycare for those with Alzheimer's disease, and other forms of dementia," said Coye. "Clients often can't pay for those services at cost. Monies we raise are used to subsidize those costs, and we have to raise more money to keep it going for families.

"It actually costs us $100 a day," Coye continued. "We try not to pass on the full cost to clients, because most of them are on a fixed income."

The average age when Alzheimer's disease strikes is 65, officials say, but there is one 45-year-old patient at Governor's Glen in Forest Park, an agency that specializes in memory care, according to Subbrecka Jones, activities director at Governor's Glen.

Care for those with Alzheimer's disease can range from $1,500 per month to $2,000 per month, Jones said. She said her agency is constantly trying to make the public more aware of the disease, and its accompanying difficulties.

In the nine-county Southern Crescent area, which includes Henry and Clayton counties, 985 people are being treated for the disease, according to Iola Snow, co-chairperson of the annual Southern Crescent Memory Walk.

Obtaining financial support in the fight against Alzheimer's disease is a major undertaking, and November was designated as National Alzheimer's Awareness Month.

Recently, counties in the Southern Crescent area, which include Henry, Clayton, Coweta, Fayette, Spalding, Meriwether, Troup, Heard, and parts of South Fulton, raised $230,336 in the effort to help the more than 200,000 people in Georgia with the disease.

"It takes a lot of money to do the different kinds of training we do with law enforcement officials. We work with adult protective services, provide family education, and work with professional health-care providers," said Ginny Helms, vice president of Chapter Services and Public Policy at the Alzheimer's Association in Atlanta.

Last year, for example, the agency provided 120 training sessions with law enforcement officials, said Helms. She expects the number will be equaled, or surpassed, this year.

"The big challenge with Alzheimer's disease is that it is a progressive disease, and often, just as the caregiver has figured out how to deal with one component of it, there is a new one to deal with," Helms said. "In the early stage, a client may have trouble getting lost when driving, and a decision has to be made on when, and how, to take away the keys. Then, the next [problem] might be a patient accusing the caregiver of stealing money from the patient. We provide trained consultants to deal with that," she added.

The disease, experts say, seriously impairs memory, and 60 to 70 percent of those with it, wander and get lost. "We help find a huge number of missing people, and engage in emergency placement in other instances," Helms said. Recently, for example, the agency was called by police to help a woman who was found wandering, and confused, at a convenience store. After working with adult protective services, a private detective agency, a hospital and doctors, the woman's relatives were found, Helms said.