On Saturday, the Georgia chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association held the Walk to End Alzheimer’s at the Columbia County Amphitheater, attracting more than 1,000 people and collecting more than $80,000 that will benefit the organization.
According to the group’s Web site, Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 5 million Americans and is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. In 2012, 2,080 Georgians died as a result of Alzheimer’s disease.
Dee Dee Kurilla, the director of development at the Georgia chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, has witnessed the effects of the disease firsthand; her mother-in-law has the disease. Kurilla answered five questions for The Augusta Chronicle on the mission of the Alzheimer’s Association and how it helps to raise awareness:
Q: Where does the money raised for the Alzheimer’s Association go?
A: We serve 17 counties, and everything we have – our education programs, our 800 numbers – is free. We’re not a big national organization that can throw money into a big bucket to go wherever. This is all money that stays here to support our programs.
Q: How does the Alzheimer’s Association help to raise awareness in the area?
A: We do two fundraisers a year. We do (the Walk to End Alzheimer’s) and we do Dancing with the Stars of Augusta. We do (the walk) to raise awareness and to get the community together to realize how big of a cause this is.
Q: Are there any misconceptions that the association is working to dispel?
A: It’s not an old-person disease. That’s something that I want people to know, because it’s not just something your grandmother gets. This is something that’s a progressive, degenerative brain disease.
Q: Your mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s disease. What’s it like to see a family member succumb to such a disease?
A: It’s like looking at someone that you admire and you’ve talked to so much all your life and watching them fade away into nothingness. They don’t even know to eat. They don’t know to swallow. The brain just deteriorates, and it’s just sad.
Q: What should someone do if they are experiencing early signs of Alzheimer’s disease?
A: If you’re properly diagnosed by a neurologist, I would say reach out to us, because this is the best place you can go to get connected to the resources that might be available to you. Whether you’re military or a long-term caregiver, it’s just real important to do.
– Travis Highfield, staff writer