Alzheimer's Walk raises awareness, funding for disease research and support

PLATTSBURGH Its something Therese Dudyak hopes no one ever has to experience. Its the loss of a loved one but not a loss in the traditional sense. Mrs. Dudyaks husband, Stephen, has Alzheimers disease, a mentally debilitating condition which robs people like her husband of their faculties. Its terrible what this disease does, said Mrs. Dudyak. Mr. Dudyak was diagnosed in May 2000. The manner in which his condition was found was mere happenstance, following radiation treatments for prostate cancer. Mrs. Dudyak said she became concerned about her husbands behavior following his treatment, leading him to get a computerized axial tomography, or CAT, scan. It was little things. He wouldnt say something right or say the right amount or transpose numbers, said Mrs. Dudyak. I was concerned there was a tumor or something, so he had a CAT scan and thats where it showed up. When he diagnosed, Mr. Dudyak immediately began taking medication to slow the effects of the disease, said his wife of 18 years. The first two years werent bad, Mrs. Dudyak said, but as time went on things progressed and the last year has been really difficult. Its hard for him to get around. Its been a long time since hes been able to write his name. Simple activities like reading or going for a walk have become strange and alien tasks to her husband, said Mrs. Dudyak. A man who was once a brilliant packaging engineer for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals can no longer comprehend much of the world around him. Conversations with the man who once studied at Syracuse University and served his country in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II seem difficult for him today. Its very tough some times, said Mrs. Dudyak. We just take it one day at a time. Thats all you can do. Through the help of the Third Age Adult Day Center, a service of the Alzheimers Disease Assistance Center, Plattsburgh, Mrs. Dudyak said her husband receives assistance that helps them both cope with his disease. It was through the center Mrs. Dudyak became aware of this years Alzheimers Walk, held last Sunday at the Plattsburgh State Field House. She and her husband were approached to cut the ceremonial ribbon for the walk, essentially becoming advocates for Alzheimers awareness. I told them we would be more than glad to, said Mrs. Dudyak. Its good to make people aware and if people have never been touched by this disease, they have no idea about what the families have to go through. It gets very difficult, especially in the last stages of it. Its not just about raising funds, its also about raising awareness letting people know that there is an organization out there to help them, 2007 Alzheimers Walk organizer Kenna LaPorte said of the event. Ms. LaPorte herself became involved with the walk as an undergraduate student at SUNY Plattsburgh, studying geriatrics. While a student, Ms. LaPorte studied under Dr. Taher Zandi, who today serves as director of the Alzheimers Disease Assistance Center. Though most wont have the opportunity to work with someone with extensive training in neuropsychology such as Dr. Zandi, information about Alzheimers can be found anywhere, along with support for those with it and those affected by it, said Ms. LaPorte. Theres information out there, medication to keep [Alzheimers patients] in their stages longer, and hopefully, someday a cure, said Ms. LaPorte. That information is out there because of support communities give to events like the Alzheimers Walk. Through money raised by the event, which has been held locally since 1994, funding for the centers educational programs and support groups in Plattsburgh, Elizabethtown, Saranac Lake, Malone, Ticonderoga and Hogansburg is possible. Alzheimers disease, named after German physician Alois Alzheimer, who identified the first case of the disease in 1906, is described as a progressive andfatal brain disease by the national office of the Alzheimers Association. Figures provided by the Alzheimers Association show more than five million Americans have the enervating disease to which there is no known cure. Projections show by the year 2050, that number will climb to 14 million. Its just multiplying, Mrs. Dudyak said of the number of diagnosed Alzheimers patients. Hopefully, in the future, we wont need a walk, because there will be a cure, said Ms. LaPorte. Those who were unable to attend last Sundays walk may still get information about Alzheimers disease or make donations towards Alzheimers initiatives by calling 564-3370 or visiting www.alzwalk.org.

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