First Alzheimer's Walk to take place in Carson City

The Alzheimer's Association will hold a Memory Walk in Carson City for the first time Sunday.

The walk will honor Carson City resident Barbara Tonge and is in memory of Tonge's late husband, Ayer, who died Memorial Day of the disease. They had been married 44 years.

The Memory Walk is the association's largest fund-raiser. According to Wendy Knorr, executive director of the Northern Nevada chapter, money raised here will support Nevadans.

"The chapter provides services to 12 Northern Nevada counties," Knorr said. "It provides respite care and serves families, addressing the most critical needs of the individual community."

Tonge is chairwoman of this year's event. She is looking forward to Sunday's walk, which will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the Legislative Plaza.

"I'm doing this partly because of Ayer and because it needed to be done in Carson City," Tonge said.

Tonge is a member of the Alzheimer's support group at the Carson City Senior Citizens Center. It meets from 1-2 p.m. the first and third Wednesday of each month at the center.

"We've got a lot of support from the community for the walk," she said. "We'll have coffee from Starbucks, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, orange juice from the Grocery Outlet, Frito-Lay chips, sandwiches and water from Albertsons, Coca-Cola and fruit from Raley's and Albertsons."

There are no tests to determine if a person has Alzheimer's, but there are signs. The person repeatedly asking the same question in a matter of minutes, or forgetting how to do a simple task such as making coffee or how to use the toaster. Tonge said it may be attributed to stress, lack of vitamins or senior dementia. It may also be hereditary. Accurate diagnosis is made only through autopsy.

"For me, my father had Alzheimer's. His brother, my husband's mother and three of his aunts died of Alzheimer's," Tonge said.

She also said participating in the walk is a good investment for the community.

"Come out and do what you can to help find a cure. It will hit more people as we get older. Some just don't realize how many people are affected."

Knorr said there are about 9,000 diagnosed cases of Alzheimer's in Northern Nevada. Age is the No. 1 risk factor, and with baby boomers hitting critical mass, the number of cases is estimated to hit 32,000 over 30 years. Nationally, there are about 4.5 million people with Alzheimer's.

"The average age of onset is 75," Knorr said. "We do have documented cases of individuals in their 40s. As you age, every five years, your risk doubles. By age 85, you have a 50-50 chance of getting Alzheimer's."

Knorr said as research develops, there has been some success in avoiding Alzheimer's by strengthening the heart.

"Medication for the coronary factor may be helping with the Alzheimer's factor, but we still have a way to go in learning more," Knorr said.

The disease affects both the patient and the caretaker. Knorr said 70 percent of caretakers of Alzheimer's patients become clinically depressed and negligent in their own health.

"Our role is to help caregivers," Knorr said. "The disease makes people feel powerless. The Memory Walk is something concrete a person can do to do something for others. It makes people feel good."


What: Alzheimer's Memory Walk and raffle

When: Registration at 8 a.m.; walk at 9:30 a.m.; picnic lunch after walk

Where: Legislative Plaza

Call: 883-0703 or 786-8061


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