News 12 at 11 o'clock / Friday, Sept. 21, 2012
EVANS, Ga. -- The disease already affects more than 5,000,000 Americans, but as the baby boomers are getting older, that number is about to rise.
"We need to get it as a country, because if we don't, our health care system is probably not set up to care for all the things that are going to happen to the baby boomers that are going to age," said Alzheimer's Association Development Director Dee Dee Kurilla.
They call it the long goodbye. Alzheimer's is the heartless disease that robs you of your mind, and millions of Americans are suffering through it.
"It's the sixth leading cause of death, and there's no cure," Kurilla said.
More than 200,000 of those affected live in Georgia, and approximately 14,000 of those are living in the 17 counties that make up the Augusta region.
Janeabeth Wells' mother is only 69 years old and is already suffering from early onset Alzheimer's disease.
"She does not recognize me as her daughter or her grandchildren, so it's pretty difficult. I think the cruelest thing about Alzheimer's is it actually takes the person away from you while they're still physically here," Wells said.
Wells says care taking for her mother is a 24/7 job.
"When she gets up in the morning, it's kind of like having a toddler at home. She does need constant supervision, constant care, we can't leave her alone any longer," Wells said.
Just last month 80-year-old Effie Lou Parks, who suffers from Alzheimer's, wandered off from her home in Appling. After eight hours of searching, she was finally returned home.
"We just thank God that she's home, and we just urge everybody if you have an Alzheimer's patient or anything, just keep a good eye on them and just protect them as much as you can," her family said.
Her story has a happy ending, but sadly, for most Alzheimer's patients, that's not the case.
With no cure in sight, Wells says coping is about knowledge -- understanding the disease -- and love.
"There's no happy ending at all. The only thing you can do is love them," Wells said.
By 2050, the number of people with Alzheimer's in Georgia is expected to triple to as many as 16 million people.
With depressing figures like that, the Alzheimer's Association is trying to spread some hope and knowledge by raising awareness and helping families understand this devastating disease.
They have a pretty high profile event coming up called the Walk to End Alzheimer's on Nov. 3.
It's a 2-to-3-mile walk that starts at the Augusta Commons.
It helps raise funds and awareness for the disease, but mostly it's about showing the families they're not alone.