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Support center offers place of solace, security and education

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James Johns and Connor Conlon chose the Alzheimer’s /Dementia Support Center as the organization to receive proceeds from their National Lemonade Day booth in May, in honor of their grandmother.

209 Health & Wellness file photo/

POSTED July 31, 2013 8:27 p.m.

Imagine spending 50 years married to someone. Imagine that within those 50 years you have experienced hundreds of memories, moments and emotions with that one single person. Now imagine waking up one day and not knowing who that person was.

This is a harsh reality that millions of people across the country have to deal with on a daily basis. The cause? Alzheimer’s disease.

One local organization is trying to make lives easier for those suffering from this life-altering disease and their families.

The Alzheimer’s/Dementia Support Service, a nonprofit based out of Modesto, offers weekly meetings to educate and treat those suffering from Alzheimer’s and those who are responsible for the care of those affected. The group meets weekly to talk about issues related to living and dealing with this disease.

“It’s really helpful for others to hear that they’re not by themselves,” said Cheryl Gerhardt, support sessions facilitator. “It’s a place where people can say ‘I’m not crazy, and I’m gonna have days of frustration.’ ”

Alzheimer’s Disease, is a progressive and degenerative disease in which there is a gradual loss of function and death of nerve cells in several areas of the  brain. It results in loss of cognitive function such as memory and language, changes in behavior, mood and emotion, and physical abilities.

Gerhardt said that unlike other diseases that are treatable, Alzheimer’s directly affects the brain and its ability to function, which can prove stressful for those providing care.

“Last week, I had a granddaughter come in whose grandmother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and she really had no idea where to start ,” said Gerhardt. “It can be really overwhelming.”

According to the 2011 World Alzheimer Report, 36 million people are estimated to be suffering from the disease with 75 percent of those still going undiagnosed.

The problem is especially bad within the state, with experts suggesting that the rate of Californians suffering from Alzheimer’s will be up 15 percent by 2015 and 90 percent by 2030. The skyrocketing rate is largely due to the explosion of California’s baby boomers reaching age 65, when Alzheimer’s is most likely to show up.

Although there is no known cure for the disease, taking steps in early diagnosis and educating caregivers can help slow down the symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s.

“Failure to diagnose Alzheimer’s in a timely manner represents a tragic missed opportunity to improve the quality of life for millions of people,”  said Dr. Daisy Acosta, chair of Alzheimer’s Disease International. “It only adds to an already massive global health, social and fiscal challenge.”

In Turlock, the Alzheimer/Dementia support group meets at 9:30 a.m. Wednesdays at Paramount Court Senior Living, 3791 Crowell Rd. The group also meets at the main offices in Modesto, at 700 McHenry Ave., at 9:30 a.m. and at 5:30 p.m. on Mondays.

For more information, call (209) 577-0018.

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