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Walk looks to put an end to Alzheimer's

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - A walk to find a cure for the sixth-leading cause of death in America will soon be finding its way to Southwest Oklahoma.

65,000 Oklahomans and more than five million people in the United States suffer from Alzheimer's. The Southwest Oklahoma Walk to End Alzheimer's is happening in Lawton August 27th, with the goal of helping reduce that number and find a cure for the deadly disease.

Several people in the Lawton area are affected by the disease, which does not just impact the 65,000 Oklahomans who have it, but also every single family member and friend of those people. The Alzheimer's Association believes by the year 2050 as many as 16 million Americans will suffer from Alzheimer's and hopes everyone in the community will come out to the walk and raise money to finally find a cure for the disease before it gets to that point.

Natalie Fitch is the chair for the Southwest Oklahoma Walk to End Alzheimer's.  She got involved after learning firsthand the difficulties associated with the disease. Fitch's mother died five years ago after struggling with Alzheimer's as her life completely changed.

"I saw my mom who was healthy vibrant go from me spending time with her and walking out the door and then a minute later she's calling me saying when am I going to see you, Natalie? When was the last time you came over? That is extremely difficult,” Fitch said.

Fitch said she was never prepared for the unexpected challenges that came along when her mother was diagnosed.

"It's also difficult to see when they can't take care of themselves, especially when they've been very independent their entire life,” Fitch said. “All of the sudden they are very dependent upon you and it impacts you from a personal stress point because you have to be the strength for them and their mind.”

Cindy Batty lives in Lawton and has been her mother’s caretaker for the last six years. She said when Alzheimer's disease started taking its toll on her, she had no idea how to handle the new-found responsibilities in her life.

"Once I did my research and I started to learn more and more about Alzheimer's and I started to understand that what she was doing was to make me mad, none of it was on purpose,” Batty said. “All of it was because it was not my mom, it was the disease."

Batty said obviously there are other serious diseases that thousands of people around the country deal with, but in her perspective, there is nothing that compares to the devastation of Alzheimer’s.

"At least my loved one, if they have Cancer they still have their brain, they have their mind,” Batty said. “They can still talk with them and go back and reminisce about memories and stuff. With Alzheimer's you can't."

The walk aims at both finding a cure to the disease and helping those who have the disease and their families. The Alzheimer's Association hopes the event will raise 35,000 dollars, which will be used to do further research on the disease, as well as fund local classrooms and support groups for those struggling and anxious to learn more in Southwest Oklahoma.

"Come out for the day of the event, walk for the cause, but as well as share with others, make new friends and know that we're all here as an individual and as a group to support this disease,” Fitch said.

The Alzheimer's Association in Southwest Oklahoma offers a wide variety of services, from counseling to support groups and classes on how to spot the early signs of it. You can get in touch with the organization by calling (800) 272 – 3900 or going to their website.

The walk will take place August 27th at Elmer Thomas Park at 10 a.m. No money is required to participate in the walk but donations of any amount are welcome. You can register for the walk here.

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