The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
Both of Sharon DeJohn’s parents suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, so she knows what it is like.
She knows what it is like to watch the people she loves slowly, steadily deteriorate as their memories fade, as they slip away into a permanent state of forgetfulness. She knows what it is like to take care of the people who took care of her for so many years. And she knows what it is like to feel like there is nothing she could do to make it any better.
“It’s devastating to watch your parents go through,” DeJohn said.
That is why the Port Arthur native and former teacher decided to organize the first Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Port Arthur. The walk begins at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Seawall on Lakeshore Drive.
While teams can still sign up until the morning of the walk, DeJohn said any donation at all would be welcome. The Order of Eastern Stars Naomi Chapter 26 teamed up with the city of Port Arthur and the Alzheimer’s Association to hold the walk.
DeJohn, a member of the Naomi Chapter 26, serves the Golden Triangle Area for the organization. She said she wanted to bring awareness of Alzheimer’s to Port Arthur and the surrounding cities because she knew many people who have suffered from or know someone who has suffered from the disease, which is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.
Port Arthur Mayor Deloris “Bobbie” Prince was one of those people. Prince, who planned to walk Saturday, said she hoped the community would come out and support the walk.
Prince has met many people with this “mind-boggling” disease that destroys a person’s memory, she said.
“I think we have all been around someone with it,” she said.
But the seriousness of the illness and the need for more research and more awareness for Alzheimer’s disease, Prince said, should motivate members of the community to come out to the walk Saturday and get bundles of information about how to recognize the symptoms and how to deal with the disease itself.
DeJohn said she wanted to organize the walk in Port Arthur to get people to recognize the disease, to talk about it and to get educated about it. And the Alzheimer’s Association has programs and services to help people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. The association has a local chapter in Beaumont plus a 24-hour hotline (1-800-272-3900), support groups and myriad educational materials.
Right now, 5.4 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease, and one in eight older Americans has the disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association website. Symptoms include gradual memory loss, impairment of judgment, disorientation, personality change, difficulty in learning and loss of language skills.
The direct costs of caring for those with Alzheimer’s or other dementias in the U.S. were estimated to be $200 billion in 2012, according to the website. And Alzheimer’s is the only cause of death among the top 10 causes in the U.S. that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed.