OCEANSIDE — There is no known cause or cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
The Alzheimer’s Association charity walk at the Junior Seau Pier Amphitheater Oct. 6 will raise funds toward changing that prognosis.
Teams and individuals will meet up at the amphitheater at 3 p.m. for the 2-mile walk. More than 1,000 participants are expected.
“It’s a beautiful location around sunset,” Mary Ball, president and CEO of Alzheimer’s Association San Diego/Imperial Chapter, said. “The walk is for families. If they have other activities during the day they can come in the afternoon and relax.”
The fundraising goal this year is $100,000.
“It’s a very hopeful event,” Ball said. “The majority of participants are touched by the disease. That community comes together to do something. Pat Brown of Channel 10 was touched by the disease in her family. She is on the board of directors.”
“The numbers are skyrocketing,” Ball added. “It affects 60,000 people in San Diego County.”
Alzheimer’s disease is a medical condition where the brain deteriorates and there is loss of cognitive function and memory. As the disease progresses the memory shuts down and body organs fail.
Warning signs can include loss of memory and sudden difficulty performing routine tasks like following a recipe or reading a clock.
“Caregivers have an incredibly difficult job,” Ball added. “Eighty percent of those with the disease are cared for by family members. It’s stressful.”
This is the fifth year Ken Darling, of Vista, has participated in the Alzheimer’s Association charity walk. The first two years he joined in the annual walk at Balboa Park before a walk was organized in Oceanside.
Darling walks for his mom who passed away after struggling with the disease for 15 years.
“I’ve gotten to know the organization,” Darling said. “I want to give back a little bit.”
Darling was the primary caregiver for his mom. He said at first he just needed to keep an eye on her, but as the disease progressed she started to need total care. During her last three years she was bed and chair bound.
“During the last seven or eight months, we couldn’t have a conversation,” Darling said. “She didn’t know I was her son. It robs a family of knowing that’s always my mom. It’s a tough one.”
The Alzheimer’s Association provides a caregiver helpline, education programs and support groups.
Darling said the support group really helped him cope with the situation.
“I walk into a room and 20 people know exactly what I’m going through,” Darling said. “I made some wonderful friends.”
“It was a tough journey, but I’d do it again,” he added. “It was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Keeping Mom at home meant a lot to us as a family.”
The future is looking a bit brighter for those diagnosed with the disease.
“In San Diego there is a tremendous amount of research,” Ball said. “We’re optimistic there will be a cure in the next decade.”
For more information, go to alz.org/sandiego, or call the 24-hour helpline at (800) 272-3900.