Friday, November 22, 2002
Pittsylvania Co., VA - It just so happens that November is Alzheimer's Awareness month. And Simpson's case isn't the only one to bring sadness to the Southside recently. Earlier this week former Henry County Supervisor George Baker took his own life after killing his wife Ramona.
Investigators tell us she also suffered from Alzheimer's and the burden of caring for her may have been too much for Baker. This terrible disease seems to be a growing problem.
The numbers are on the rise. People are now living longer lives. That means there is a better chance Alzheimer's will touch all of us in one way or another. The stories we have told you about so far tonight are just two examples of how this disease can destroy a family.
Chief Mike Rodgers, Martinsville Police Department - "We found the note that he had apparently written, signed by him, in which he expressed his frustration looking after his father."
Alzheimer's... a disease that is turning homes into crime scenes. July of 2000, a Martinsville man, his father suffering from the disease, decided he couldn't take anymore. He killed his father, sister, nephew and then himself.
Van Avery, Mental Health Association of Danville & Pittsylvania County - "To that caregiver there is no break. It is a constant on alert stress mode."
Van Avery is the executive director for The Mental Health Association of Danville and Pittsylvania County. She helps those who look after loved ones with the memory loss disease.
Avery - "Its called the long good-bye because truly from the day of diagnosis the caregiver begins to grieve the loss."
The United Way provides counseling and support groups so caregivers can share their emotions but there is another problem caregivers must address. Those suffering from the disease often wander away from home.
Searcher - "Mrs. Bradner!"
This Pittsylvania County woman was lucky. Days after wondering off, police in a helicopter spotted her.
To help caregivers, several sheriff's departments now give out lifesaver bracelets...a sort of homing device that allows them to quickly find Alzheimer patients. So far in Pittsylvania County, they have found 9 people in an average of just 17 minutes.
If you are a caregiver looking for help, you can contact The United Way. You should also contact your local sheriff's office to see if they offer the lifesaver program, many offer the tracking bracelets for free.
Alzheimer's now affects about four million Americans. It is the fourth leading cause of death among our elderly.
Copyright 2002 WSET, Inc.