By Rose Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
Ann Simpson experienced the horrors of Alzheimer's disease firsthand when her husband was diagnosed with the disease in his mid-50s.
He died at the age of 58 from Alzheimer's.
"I had no clue that he even had a problem," said Simpson, chairperson of the second annual Killeen/Fort Hood Alzheimer's Memory Walk. "We were married for 34 years by the time he was diagnosed, and I didn't see it at all. We thought he had a burnout because he was working so much."
On Saturday, local residents can help raise funds to go toward the fight against Alzheimer's during the Memory Walk on the Central Texas College campus.Registration starts at 8 a.m., and the walk begins at 8:30 a.m.
Alzheimer's is a disease that can strike people of all ages and triggers a variety of symtoms.
Simpson's husband began to misplace items, such as his wedding ring, and his cognitive skills started to decline.
"We came home from our physician's office, and he told me the doctor referred him to a dermatologist," Simpson said. "He gave me the appointment card, and it was for a neurologist. I guess that's when I first realized there was something really wrong."
Simpson and her husband began to learn more about Alzheimer's disease and were surprised to discover there wasn't a support group in the Killeen area.
After her husband died, Simpson was very grateful for the support group she had established.
"There was nowhere for me to go," Simpson said.
The Alzheimer's Support Group meets the second Wednesday of each month at 1:30 p.m. at the Indian Oaks Living Center.
During last year's Memory Walk, an estimated $9,000 was raised by more than 100 walkers.
"All of the money comes back to this county," Simpson said. "It's used for the 24-hour help line, support groups, the Safe Return program, community awareness and seminars, family consultation, memory screenings, and a resource and lending library."
About 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, including 4.9 million people age 65 and older, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
The Alzheimer's Association estimates at least 200,000 individuals younger than 65 have early-onset Alzheimer's. The group also estimates there are about 500,000 Americans younger than 65 with Alzheimer's or another dementia. An estimated 270,000 Texans live with Alzheimer's.
"We're on the verge of an epidemic," Simpson said. "The good thing is we're developing more medication and bettering medical care of Alzheimer's patients. The sad part about it is a lot of people that are diagnosed are cognitively aware of what is happening to them. That's frightening."
T-shirts for $25 each and a "memory book" for participants to sign the name of the person they are walking for will be available at the Memory Walk. Door prizes will be offered, and snacks and water will be available after the walk.
For more information on the walk or support group, contact Simpson at 526-4576 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Rose Posival at email@example.com or call (254) 501-7469