CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With the longest day of the year upon us, many are thankful for the extra daylight hours; but for those dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, every day can seem like the longest day of the year.
That is why the West Virginia Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and the Alpha Omicron Omega Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority have come together to raise awareness and provide support for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and their families.
“The Longest Day is really an opportunity to shine a light on Alzheimer’s,” said Christy Day, vice president of Alpha Omricon Omega. “We are hoping that people and families suffering from Alzheimer’s can come and share their stories and give a sense of hope to those who may not be as far along on the journey.”
Day said she has a personal history with the disease, as her father suffered from it.
“My father had dementia and when we first realized what was going on it was devastating,” Day said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014 39 percent of residential care community members had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, in nursing homes that number rose to 50 percent. Alzheimer’s disease was responsible for 93,541 deaths in 2014.
West Virginia Alzheimer’s Association member Nikole Kinder said over 37,000 people in West Virginia alone suffer from the disease.
“This disease is truly something that affects your whole family,” Kinder said. “Family members have to reduce work hours, take on extra stress, stretch their finances, and be a caregiver.”
Kinder said the 37,000 people suffering from Alzheimer’s amounts to about 107,000 caregivers, most likely a family member, that are usually unpaid.
Day said the goal of the event is simply to help the community understand that there are resources to support families dealing with this disease, and that they do not have to go on the journey alone.
Day said experiencing the disease for the first time with her father was a terrifying ordeal.
“One of the first signs we experienced was that he didn’t realize my sister had passed,” Day said. “Instead of cowering in our fear, we realized it wasn’t going to get better. Our family worked together to come up with a plan, and that is my advice.”
Day said the situation can be tough, but self-pity will not help anyone.
“You are where you are, whether it be fair or not fair,” Day said. “Get some help and get a plan because you are going to be better off in the long run.”
The event will take place Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Grace Bible Church on Kanawha Boulevard.
Families affected by the disease will have a chance to get together to sing and give personal testimonies and advice. Information about Alzheimer’s disease will also be presented.