Saturday, hundreds of people – most impacted by Alzheimer’s disease in one way or another – flooded Waterford’s Harkness Park for the "Walk to End Alzheimer’s", a fundraiser put on by the Alzheimer’s Association to further its mission of finding a cure for the disease.
Right now, 70,000 people in Connecticut have Alzheimer’s, and more than 150,000 people are caring for those people, according to the association. The point of Saturday’s walk was to both raise money to cure the disease and raise awareness of the Alzheimer’s Association, an under-utilized group dedicated to making life easier for Alzheimer’s patients and their families.
“We are here for support and education,” said Eleanora Tornatore-Mikesh, who just began as the executive director of the Connecticut chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association on Monday. “We need to keep encouraging people to tell their story.”
At the opening ceremony, Sid Yudowitch, who has early onset Alzheimer's, expressed the importance of raising awareness and funds for the disease. Yudowitch stressed that people who have Alzheimer’s or dementia are still themselves, just affected by a disease.
“It is so important that everybody remember that a person with Alzheimer’s is still that person living with a disease that dramatically affects their brain,” Yudowitch said.
About the Alzheimer’s Association
The Alzheimer’s Association is non-profit organization composed for and of people like Waterford’s Kristine Johnson. Johnson’s father was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's when he was 52, and she spent the first few years with more questions than answers about the disease.
Then one day she found about the Alzheimer’s Association on the Internet, and they proved invaluable. The group gave her support, and even offers financial assistance to people to help keep somebody in Alzheimer’s in a home instead of a healthcare facility, she said.
“I can’t even say enough about them,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t have gotten through it without them.”
Johnson’s father died of Alzheimer’s, and shortly after she herself applied and was hired as the Eastern Regional Director of the Alzheimer’s Association. The job, despite working with people affected with a disease that has no cure, has been a godsend because she said she knows the association makes a difference.
“It’s great,” Johnson said. “I love it.”
The problem, according to Johnson and Tornatore-Mikesh, is that the Alzheimer’s Association is under-utilized. The two are hoping that doctors recommend the association more to afflicted patients, and more patients and caregivers use the organization.
For more information about the Alzheimer’s Association, click here.