Support critical in tackling Alzheimer's - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

THURSDAY, October 22, 2009

Support critical in tackling Alzheimer's

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It's estimated more than 50,000 people living in San Diego County have Alzheimer's disease, and that number will grow faster every year. A cure isn't here yet, but help is, and this Saturday you can make sure that help stays available.

Pamela Begeal talks about the day about a year ago when her 81-year-old mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

"Well, your initial reaction is grief and loss and a sense of, 'Oh, what am I going to do and how do I handle this?'" Pamela said.

Pamela's fear and instincts had her reaching to the San Diego-Imperial County chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, a move that she says has paid off big.

"I think the caregiver that utilizes resources and is well educated. They will reach out for help, not try to do everything on their own," Beth Davidson of the Alzheimer's Association said.

Beth says Pamela's lesson is one that should be learned by everyone dealing with a family member with the devastating disease, especially with so many misconceptions about Alzheimer's out there.

"I think people are still under the perception that Alzheimer's is a normal part of aging, and it's not. It's a degenerative brain disease that is always fatal," Beth said.

Memory Walk is the association's largest annual event. This year's walk is this Saturday morning in Balboa Park, with more than 3,000 people expected and a goal of raising more than $400,000.

"That money goes to all of the free programs and services that we provide here at the Alzheimer's Association, for those with the disease and for their families," Beth said.

By her account, Pamela's taken about 80 percent of the courses offered, and has joined support groups. She says what she's learned has paid off in a better relationship with her Alzheimer's-stricken mother.

"It has literally changed my life and my mother's life," she said.

The Alzheimer's Association Memory Walk is Saturday, Oct. 24 at Balboa Park. Registration is at 7 a.m., with the three-mile walk starting at 8:30 a.m.

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