TMC building a team for the Alzheimer’s Walk: Come join us!

flowersIn 2008, Paul Garrett started forgetting things. If he was driving, for example, he would ask whether he was making the correct turn on a route he had traced many times over his lifetime.

But it wasn’t until 2009 that his wife, Joann, learned how bad things were. Paul had called her into his office, where he was sitting in front of the computer and had no idea how to make it work.

Paul’s father had died with Alzheimer’s disease, but Joann didn’t have any direct experience with dementia or related diseases. That very day of the computer incident, she went to Tucson Medical Center’s Senior Services, which not only offered Alzheimer’s educational programming through film and lectures, but also offered a support group for caregivers, where she could learn what to expect from experts and from other families experiencing the throes of the disease.

“I took advantage of the knowledge that was out there, and the strategies that I learned were really immeasurable in helping us cope,” said Joann, who married Paul 55 years ago. She learned what to expect in the various stages of disease, as well as how to help Paul avoid frustration and agitation, and how to best be supportive as the disease progressed. She also learned about how to protect her own health, both mentally and physically. “It just allowed me to be proactive and prepared for what was coming down the road. I learned when to recognize that there would be a need to place Paul in a care home and three months ago, I had to make the decision to place him. It was very hard, but it was better for both of us.”

“The hardest thing has just been watching the steady erosion of your loved one,” Joann said. “Alzheimer’s is unforgiving in that way.”

Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, with someone developing the disease every 67 seconds, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. And women are at the center of the epidemic, accounting for nearly two-thirds of the cases.

Tucson Medical Center is a sponsor of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, taking place on Saturday, Nov. 1 at the University of Arizona mall. TMC is seeking people to join our team for the two-mile walk, which is being held in cities across the nation and designed to raise awareness and funds for care, support and research.My Dad

“People who have this disease can become increasingly isolated, so there’s something very important about the community coming together to support those who are dealing with the disease, and reassuring them that they’re not alone,” said Terri Waldman, the director of the new TMC Geropsychiatric Center at Handmaker, which will open in January to provide short-term inpatient stabilization for older adults experiencing severe behavioral health disorders. “Together, we can work to find a cure for this disease and to make sure those who have it have an opportunity to live with dignity and hope.”

Kelly Raach, the Southern Arizona Regional Director for the Alzheimer’s Association Desert Southwest Chapter, said funds raised will provide care and support services to the more than 25,000 individuals in Southern Arizona living with Alzheimer’s, while also contributing to advancing critically-needed research.

“There has never been a greater need for people to join the fight against Alzheimer’s disease by participating in the Walk,” she said.

Norma Patrick, a retired teacher and TMC volunteer who runs the Alzheimer’s film series offered the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month, started her research in 2001 when her husband was diagnosed with the disease. She turned to documentary films to help her learn what to expect. Ultimately, the collection grew to 22 films, touching on different aspects of the disease and caregiving.

“I didn’t choose Alzheimer’s. It chose me. And it is a disease that changes every aspect of your life,” Norma said. “I was compelled to understand what he was going through to try to help him. And although it makes me sad to see what others in the community are going through, I think if they prepare from the beginning, it does help them learn to approach what is happening in ways that is helpful to them and their loved one.”

Anne Morrison, TMC’s walk team captain and a coordinator for TMC’s Senior Services, lost both parents to Alzheimer’s disease. “I know what it is like to be a caregiver and I know the stress they feel.  The information and education TMC provides helps them care for themselves and for their loved ones.”

2girlsbigdogMorrison has one goal for the walk: “We would love to see a large TMC Team out there walking.” Participants have an opportunity to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association, but most important is that as we walk, it shows those who have been touched by the disease that we care.”

To join the TMC walk team or to get more information, please email Anne.Morrison@tmcaz.com

For more information about the walk, please visit http://www.alz.org/dsw/

For more information about TMC’s educational and support programs for those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers, please visit https://www.tmcaz.com/Community/SeniorServices/Alzheimers_and_Related_Dementia_Project

 

* Photos courtesy of Alzheimer’s Association, Desert Southwest Chapter

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Rd. | Tucson, AZ 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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