Mind Matters

By Hadassah Lansiquot
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Someone develops Alzheimer’s disease every 69 seconds in the United States. Alzheimer’s is a disease that hinders the brain’s ability to receive or absorb information. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, affecting 5.4 million Americans. These were just a few of the statistics shared at the Alzheimer’s Skills Shop on Tuesday, Sept. 27 at Valencia’s West Campus.

Zia Ansari, Student Development advisor and Valencia Volunteer, was on hand to answer questions as well as to assist guest speakers Sharon Melton and Joan Giovanni, representatives from the Alzheimer’s Association. The event was hosted by Team Valencia, a network of staff, students, and alumni from all of Valencia’s campuses.

Joan Giovanni, development manager for the Central and North Florida Chapter of AA, plans and executes the company’s fundraising walks, eight of which have been planned for this year. Giovanni confided that her own mother had the disease for two years before she even heard of AA She adds that she “could have been a caretaker sooner” had she known about the association earlier.

Sharon Melton, director of programs and services at AA’s Central and North Florida Chapter, firmly believes in the importance of fighting this epidemic. “Alzheimer’s isn’t just an old person’s disease,” Melton said. “It affects every part of our society.”

Those who don’t have loved ones affected by the disease will be affected by taxes. It is estimated that 20 million people will need medical care for Alzheimer’s within the next 30 years.

The Central and North Florida Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association serves 31 counties throughout the state. AA provides numerous services for those affected by the disease, including education programs, support groups, training for caretakers/first responders, and physician referrals, and a 24-hour helpline that provides personal support and information.

One of the biggest challenges AA faces is simply getting the word out. Giovanni said “it’s hard to get people talking” about the painful, and sometimes personal, subject That is why Giovanni and Melton are grateful for any opportunity to spread information through colleges and youth organizations.

“Alzheimer’s is an epidemic that needs attention,” Melton said.

There are over 900,000 caregivers providing care for their loved ones without pay, a figure which Melton said is just “not acceptable”. Melton hopes to continue to reach out to others through AA to try to prevent the disease from claiming so many victims. Giovanni hopes to not only make people aware of the disease, but to also promote healthier lifestyles so others will be better prepared if their loved ones should develop the disease.

Several events are occurring throughout the months of September and October to promote Alzheimer’s awareness, including the Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Saturday, Oct. 22 at Lake Eola Park.

Registration begins at 8 a.m. and the walk starts at 9 a.m. Team Valencia hopes to raise $18,001. For more information about the walk, log on to www.alz.org/walk