Alzheimer's disease is the sixth most common cause of death in the United States, and the only health condition in the top ten that can't be cured or even slowed. But Vermonters touched by the disease aren't lying down, they're walking toward a cure.
Five years ago, Pamela Pare lost her grandfather. He died of cancer, but though undiagnosed, also likely had a form of dementia known as Alzheimer's disease. "Our family could talk about cancer, but we couldn't discuss the memory loss, so for me to be involved is to get the message out there," Pare said.
Pare shared her story with more than 600 people Sunday as they gathered for the annual "Walk to End Alzheimer's" at the Shelburne Museum. The event raised more than 100-thousand dollars, one-third of the operating budget for the local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.
"It convinces me that together, we can have a real impact," said the Association's Susan Wehry. Wehry say that's essential.
Pinwheeels show the impact the disease has had on attendees. More than 11-thousand Vermonters struggle with the memory loss and other associated symptoms of Alzheimer's, and that number is expected to reach 13-thousand by 2020.
"The major risk factor for the development of dementia is being over the age of 65 and continuing to age," said Dr. Bill Pendlebury with Fletcher Allen Health Care.
Experts say dementia cases, of which Alzheimer's makes up about 80 percent, are rising with life expectancy. Drugs can treat symptoms but not the disease. "Where the field is going is to try to identify people at risk for Alzheimer's Disease before they develop symptoms and start treating them before the disease even happens," Dr. Pendlebury said.
"There is hope and we need to work together to find a cure," Pamela Pare said.
Pare says she and others will continue walking, year after year, until they do.
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