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Walk aimed at easing pain of Alzheimer's

Sep. 22, 2013 @ 12:15 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Even a steady downpour couldn't stop Saturday's Walk to End Alzheimer's because participants know that fighting the disease's effects on people requires determination.

That's one of the reasons the Alzheimer's Association hosts the annual event, as it draws family members and caregivers together to share stories, hug and cry as they mourn the loss of their loved ones, whether by death or by mind, to a disease that has no cure.

"It's one giant event for families and caregivers," said Kaarmin Ford, the Walk to End Alzheimer's West Virginia coordinator. "To be a voice for those who have passed."

Tammy Finley's mother, Hester Nichols, has suffered from Alzheimer's for 11 years. At 89, she resides at a home in Chesapeake, not remembering that she even has a daughter.

"It's been horrible," Finley said, noting that her mother lived with them for six years. "The worst job I've ever had to do. They say it's the long goodbye, and they're right."

She started voluntering at Walk to End Alzheimer's events about eight years ago because she wanted to do more to try and make a difference. At 54, she hopes that research will help her avoid the same fate.

Ford said organizers hope to raise $30,000, which will be used to help people in West Virginia through critical services and support groups, along with research.

Angela Tomasko, who works as the recreation director in the Alzheimer's unit at Heritage Center in Huntington, also volunteers at the walks. She said during her seven years at the center, it's been tough to watch patients lose their memories to a point where they think they are still young. That often results in forgetting their family.

"Watching residents progress in the disease ... they go back to the early days and they don't remember they have children and grandchildren," Tomasko said. "It's a horrible disease and my heart goes out to the families, patients and caregivers."

According to the West Virginia Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, there are approximately 48,000 West Virginians who have been diagnosed with the disease.

For more information on how to get involved, visit www.alz.org/wv.

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