Why support, awareness are essential for families dealing with Alzheimer's

More than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer's in 2021.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- About five years ago, Bob Gray began facing experiences with his wife, Julie, he didn't quite understand or come to terms with - her memory was becoming hazy as she entered the first stages of Alzheimer's.

Two and a half years later, the disease got worse and in the midst of it all, their son-in-law had a fatal accident.

"And that set us off because my wife didn't understand and for two months I was running on empty and I didn't know what to do," he says.

Then Gray joined a support group at the Alzheimer's Association, allowing him to better understand the changes his wife experiences.

He says joining those communities is critical and raising awareness at events like the Fresno-Madera Walk to End Alzheimer's is when people realize they are not alone.

"This walk is an awareness that it's out there and when you see people acting a little strange, just to think and understand that it's something they can't help," he says.

During the pandemic, Alzheimer's and dementia deaths increased by 16%.

Groups such as Latinos and African Americans are 1.5 times more likely to get diagnosed by 2060.

Susana Rodriguez with the Alzheimer's Association says these statistics are growing at an alarming rate, so raising awareness and increased support is crucial.

"For those living with the disease, for those taking care of somebody, there is hope...there is hope," says Rodriguez.

Gray says his experience has made him a better person and he holds on to hope that no one will endure this challenge one day.

"For my grandkids, I think it's going to be great because they will find a cure and they will find the cause or something but right now, my wife, I am trying to make life for her as comfortable as possible."

The Fresno-Madera Walk to End Alzheimer's is taking place Saturday at Tesoro Viejo, north of Fresno, beginning at 8 am.

If you or someone you know needs support, you can call 1-800-272-3900 at any time.

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