NEW YORK—Watching her mother suffer from Alzheimer’s spurred Indra Echeverri into action. The physical education teacher at Westside High is one of 77 runners nationwide who run marathons to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s.
“One of the things that would have made everything more easy for me was if I had been more aware of how Alzheimer’s really is,” said Echeverri, who is currently training for the New York Marathon in November.
Charles F. Tang, 87, of Chinatown cared for his wife for five years before she passed away. He recalled 2003/4 when he discovered his wife had Alzheimer’s. “Suddenly she was so weird,” he said. Tang said it was initially difficult to find information. Eventually, he went to the Alzheimer’s Association New York chapter and attended educational meetings.
“I was the only Chinese person who attended those meetings,” Tang said. “They introduced me to the support groups.” He later founded the first Chinese support group.
Echeverri and Tang were two of the hundreds of people who flocked to City Hall wearing purple T-shirts Thursday in support of Alzheimer’s Action Day, which falls on Sept. 21. The action day is to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s and highlight the need for more caregivers and more research in the field.
Alzheimer’s currently affects 265,000 people in New York City and 36 million people worldwide, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. It is the sixth-largest killer in the United States.
Alzheimer’s is described by the Alzheimer’s Association as “a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.”
The Alzheimer’s Association provides a wide range of free services, including: resources for caregivers and families, education programs, support groups, and help creating action plans.
“People should be sure to call, because if they waste time and they don’t call, things just harder for everybody,” said Lou-Ellen Barkan, president and CEO of the New York chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
There is currently no cure for the disease; however, various treatments can help slow symptoms. Awareness and management can help the sufferers, caregivers, and family and friends.
Councilwoman Margaret Chin said she has a family friend who has Alzheimer’s. “If you have that in the family, a lot of time people don’t want to say anything; but if they don’t, they won’t be able to get information and resources to help manage it,” Chin said Thursday.
To help raise awareness, upcoming events held by the Alzheimer’s Association include the 2012 Walk to End Alzheimer’s; a 2-mile walk in Manhattan on Oct. 21; a walk in Brooklyn on Oct. 23; and a walk in Queens on Oct. 30.
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