Fort Mill Times

Help is on the way for those caring for Alzheimer’s patients

Adele Mereshak gets a lei from Harry Kaiser during the at The Cypress of Charlotte's Walk to End Alzheimer's event in 2015. Another walk to raise money to help Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers will be held Oct. 1 in Rock Hill.
Adele Mereshak gets a lei from Harry Kaiser during the at The Cypress of Charlotte's Walk to End Alzheimer's event in 2015. Another walk to raise money to help Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers will be held Oct. 1 in Rock Hill. Charlotte Observer File

For caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s disease, getting a minute away can be hard to do, but is crucial to their own well being, said Samantha Kriegshauser with the Adult Enrichment Centers of Fort Mill, an adult day care agency.

The agency, which offers a Caregiver Relief program for developmentally challenged young adults, is participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s Oct. 1. The Alzheimer’s Association event raises awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s research and support programs such as respite care, which gives caregivers a break from their duties.

“Those grants help our caregivers get some level of rest and care,” Kriegshauser said. “Being able to get a break from the 24-7 caregiving is huge.”

These grants also extend to those with early-onset Alzheimer’s, for which too few resources exist, she said. The disease affects those under the age of 65, many of whom are still working and may have families.

“A lot goes with that that we aren’t prepped for at all,” she said.

At an event called Advocacy Weekend in Washington, D.C., a few years ago, Kriegshauser met a father in his 30s with early-onset Alzheimer’s. He needed around the clock care and had kids and a wife with a job. That’s the nature of early onset, she said.

“The body can live another 20 years, but the mind is gone,” she said. “It is just gut wrenching for the family to think about their golden years.”

The Alzheimer’s Association also offers a program through which a back-up caregiver is provided so the main caregiver can attend a local support group, Kriegshauser said.

“I don’t think that’s a benefit a lot of people know about,” she said. “We want them to attend these support groups. It’s critical they connect with other people and are not isolated or alone because they are home caring for this other person.”

The support groups also help a community gauge how many residents are dealing with the disease and advocate for resources, Kriegshauser said.

The money raised from the walk also supports Alzheimer’s research and support groups, with much of it staying in York County, she said.

“Research is critical,” she said. “We need to make progress.”

Currently, Alzheimer’s is the No. 6 leading cause of death, close to becoming No. 5, Kriegshauser said.

“That is not a statistic we want to be in,” she said.

There are more than 84,000 diagnosed cases in South Carolina alone, not counting the unreported ones, Kriegshauser said. The associated cost is soon to be in the trillions.

“It’s a growing problem and we need that awareness and research,” she said.

“If we can even slow it down by five years, cost savings alone would be astronomical, besides the time you buy these families, but we don’t even have anything to slow it down. We’ve got nothing.”

The walk aims to raise awareness for the cause, which needs support from the National Institute of Health, Kriegshauser said.

“Every time the NIH made something their target and put research dollars to it, we’ve made remarkable leaps in progress,” Kriegshauser said. “I think we will see major progress in the next ten years.”

This is her ninth time supporting the walk, which last year raised more than $100,000.

“I think it’s important to raise awareness in the community,” she said.

Want to go?

Walk to End Alzheimer’s supporting the Alzheimer’s Association

Saturday, Oct. 1

Registration begins at 9 a.m.

The walk kicks off at St. John's United Methodist Church - 321 S Oakland Ave in Rock Hill

Parking is available across the street of St. John’s in the Fountain Park parking deck.

Registered walkers will receive a Promise Garden flower. Blue is for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s, purple is for someone who has lost a loved one to the disease, yellow represents someone currently supporting or caring for someone with the disease and orange is for anyone committing to ridding the world of the disease.

For more information or to register, visit act.alz.org and search for the Rock Hill walk.

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