LAKE WYLIE -- Sarah Bost knows knows how cruel a disease Alzheimer's can be. But if she can imagine anything making it worse than it already is, it would be facing the fight alone.
"When you experience it in your family, you understand it, and you have empathy for other families," said Bost, program director for the Alzheimer's Association in Rock Hill. "It makes you want to help them."
According to the Alzheimer's Association, Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, or a clinical loss or decline in memory or other cognitive abilities. Alzheimer's accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all cases of dementia, and an estimated 5.2 million Americans suffer from the disease. Of that number, 5 million people are aged 65 or older, with women slightly more susceptible than men. There is no cure.
While the association has offered several support groups in local communities and counties, now, for the first time, Lake Wylie area caregivers and families will have a network of support close to home, thanks to a partnership with Lake Wylie Retirement and Assisted Living.
"I personally feel like this is a portion of York County that can really benefit from this group," said Jennifer Davis-Peay, community relations coordinator for Lake Wylie Retirement. "We have a lot of people who, when they call and ask about the area, they want to know if we can handle people with Alzheimer's and dementia."
The Western County Alzheimer's Support Group will hold its first meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at Lake Wylie Retirement, with meetings scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. the first Monday of each month.
"It's open to the community," said Davis-Peay, who added the group will meet in an intimate setting. "If it grows, we'll just adjust."
Bost says anyone affected by the disease can benefit from the group that will include a mix of group sharing, social activities and information about Alzheimer's care.
"Most of the groups are made up of family members or caregivers who might be facing behavior problems, financial issues, just dealing with the disease," Bost said. "Families talking to other families who are going through the exact same thing helps so much."
Bost particularly would like to help caregivers, who she calls "the most creative people on the face of the planet" for their constant care in "the world of Alzheimer's" requiring constant attention and care. Her group even offers a $500 a year grant, the Alzheimer's Association Caregivers Respite Grant, to help caregivers take a break from their duties.
"The blessing of the disease is sometimes they are able to forget what's happening to them," Bost said of Alzheimer's sufferers. "In some ways, it's tougher on the caregiver who not only has to deal with it on a daily basis, but on a second-by-second basis."
Judging by experience with groups elsewhere and the staggering statistics on Alzheimer's, Bost and Davis-Peay expect the new group to supply a need for many.
"I think everyone's family, at this point, has been touched in some way by this," Davis-Peay said. "People in general are living longer and I think we're educated more to recognize the signs and symptoms. It would be difficult to find anyone who hasn't had some experience with it."
Want to go? The Western County Alzheimer's Support Group will hold its first meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, and continue the first Monday of the month, at Lake Wylie Retirement, 4877 Charlotte Hwy. Anyone with questions, concerns or discussion topics about the disease is invited to attend. Light refreshments will be served. Call (803) 831-9900 for information.
• 1 in 8 people over the age of 65 (more than 13 percent) are or will be afflicted with Alzheimer's disease.
• Every 71 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer's and by mid-century, someone new will develop the condition every 33 seconds.
For more information, visit alz.org.