By Beth Lawrence
Jackson County residents who have not yet made plans to attend this weekend’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Asheville still have time.
The event is this Saturday at Pack Square Park at 80 Court Plaza. Registration begins at 9 a.m., and online registration is still available. The opening ceremony starts at 10 a.m.
The event, hosted by Alzheimer’s Association of Western Carolina, is one of 17 walks across North Carolina to bring awareness to the debilitating disease, raise funds to battle it, and to offer support to families coping with it.
“Alzheimer’s continues to be a growing concern not only in Jackson County but for the region as well, so these events are important to bring awareness and provide support for those that are struggling with this disease,” said Eddie Wells, director of Jackson County Department on Aging.
Though participants are welcome to register at the event, it may benefit them to preregister, said Christine John-Fuller communications director for the Western Carolina chapter.
Anyone hoping to raise money for the event but worrying that it may be too late, should come anyway and find sponsors later because donations can be collected from now until the end of December, John-Fuller said.
Though the event is held in Asheville it is for anyone in the western end of the state, including the eight westernmost counties.
John-Fuller encourages everyone who can to attend because another benefit of the walk is making connections to people experiencing the same or similar circumstances.
“We actually have families that will travel from the furthest tip of the state there on the western side because it shows that there is a community out here that supports what they do,” she said. “We know that the walk is one of the representations of you being able to connect to and see an entire community that understands what your family may be going through.”
Those connections are illustrated by the Promise Garden Ceremony. Participants are asked to hold up a flower that symbolizes how they are connected to Alzheimer’s and dementia such as being a patient, a family member or caregiver, or persons who have lost someone to the disease.
Events such as the Walk to End Alzheimer’s are especially important to caregivers because it offers them connections, Wells said.
“Caregiving is very stressful, so they need support as well,” he said.
There will be booths at the event representing programs and resources.
“It’s also important to know that the services that we provide in Jackson County are funded by events like our Asheville walk,” John-Fuller said. “It goes hand in hand whether it be someone from Jackson County who is calling in to talk to someone on our helpline to get resources and support within their own area to maybe trying to identify educational programs that they can access either in their own county or through our virtual programming. There are lots of things that Jackson County individuals can find and connect to through going to the walk in Asheville.”
The Western Carolina Chapter offers support services to patients and their families through information, referrals to doctors, caregiving resources, support groups and education.
“It also is for things like just simply navigating the disease,” John-Fuller said. “So, it may not be about a local resource, but they may simply want to be able to understand behavioral changes that their loved one is having. Or they want to identify how they can plan for the future with a dementia diagnosis whether that be legally or financially. All of these things are done through our local chapter here in the western side of the state.”
The Alzheimer’s Association Western Carolina Chapter also provides advocacy for almost half of the state’s 100 counties and offers opportunities to volunteer.
Locally, the Department on Aging provides services such as respite care and the adult day program and helps clients connect to local services. They also host caregiver appreciation events to support and encourage those caring for someone with the disease.
“It’s important to the caregiver to get that respite so they get that break away from caregiving,” Wells said.
To learn more about services provided by the Department on Aging, visit aging.jacksonnc.org or call 586-5494.
For more information about Alzheimer’s disease or the Alzheimer’s Association Western Carolina Chapter or to preregister for the walk, visit alz.org/northcarolina or call 800-272-3900. For the latest news and updates, visit facebook.com/WesternNCALZ, twitter.com/AlzAssocWNC or instagram.com/alzwnc.