AWARE aims for hope in face of Alzheimer’s
Imagine, for a moment, that you’re sitting in an empty room. The walls are blank and white, one door, no windows. The lights go off, and you’re in the dark, just you and your thoughts. The door locks. Gradually, one by one, those thoughts are taken away – memories of childhood, school, your wedding and your children vanish as you grasp for who your parents were, where you’re from, what your name is. Now, change your perspective. You are the person outside that room, wanting desperately to be let in, knowing the person whom you love is trapped inside and no longer knows you exist.This is Alzheimer’s, a degenerative disease of the brain that is not a natural part of aging. The disease is devastating not just to the victim, but also to their loved ones.”I remember being 10 years old,” Eugenia Zukerman said with a halting voice, “and going to visit my grandmother. Back then, it was called dementia. My grandmother thought I was my mother, or the other way around. It was terrifying.”Zuckerman’s mother lost all of her siblings to Alzheimer’s. Her mother, fortunately, was spared the disease, and is still sharp at 91. “Since the age of 10, anytime I’d forget anything, I was terrified,” Zukerman said. “I give a big donation (to an Alzheimer’s charity) every year to keep the wolf from my door.”A reception was held this past week for AWARE – Alzheimer’s Women’s Auxiliary for Research and Education – a support organization for the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado. The organization aims to raise funds for preventing, researching and spreading awareness of the disease. The Gallegos Corporation sponsored the event, held at the Sonnenalp Hotel in Vail. Local resident Montine Hansl who lost her husband, Raleigh, to the disease in 2001 helped plan the event and is also involved in the search for a cure. The Founder of AWARE, Helen Ginsburg, founded the organization after losing her mother to Alzheimer’s. “I wasn’t going to sit by and do nothing,” she said. Since its inception in 1997 with only 18 members, AWARE now has more than 300 members and has contributed more than $675,000 to research. In 1997, there were 48,000 known cases of Alzheimer’s in Colorado. That number has grown to 63,000 today. The first of the baby boomers will soon turn 65, the age at which the risk of developing Alzheimer’s significantly increases. The potential for an increase in the disease could be major economic strain in United States. “We need to find a cure or treatment soon,” said Kathy Klugman, president of the organization. “If we don’t, Alzheimer’s could bankrupt our country.”Alzheimer’s is losing someone even before death,” she added. “Without memories, who are we and what do we have?”
Eugenia Zukerman will be the keynote speaker at the Alzheimer’s Women’s Auxiliary for Research and Education luncheon, “Memories Lost and Found,” to be held Nov. 4 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Denver. To attend the annual luncheon or to learn more about AWARE, visit their Web site at http://www.alzrockymtn.org or call (303) 813-1669.