On New Year’s Eve 2010, I was at the Fremont Temple with my family when I ran into my friends, Nanda and Girish. After the initial greetings and pleasantries, Nanda said, “I know you are involved with the Alzheimer’s Association and I was wondering if you could help us.” Girish’s father who was living with them was being treated for symptoms of cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Earlier, at the end of a routine trip to India, Girish’s parents were detained at the airport for overstaying their visa without registering with the police. His father, a meticulous and diligent person, was shocked that he had forgotten this formality. Sadly, this incident triggered other associated medical events that started a rapid decline. His ability to read English and Marathi and recite prayers in Sanskrit, which had remained intact for several months, had also declined to the point where he would open the prayer book and stares at it trying to read it.
Girish mentions that his father’s speech has also been affected and is incoherent. “We cannot figure out what he is trying to say and he probably realizes that as well. On very rare occasions he is able to express something that we can piece together and guess what he is saying.
“It is heartbreaking for me to see a man who had such stupendous memory, recollecting extracts from various books and sharing childhood anecdotes, now barely able to comprehend or express,” Girish says.
The prevalence of Alzheimer’s Disease in the Indian population is thought to be quite low; however, instances of the disease are present and might even be on the rise. Edie Yau, director of Diversity and Inclusion at the Northern California chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, is working on having more outreach and education programs in the Indian community.
The Association has information and programs to support and help patients, families, and caregivers taking this heartbreaking journey. It also supports research in the form of awards and much needed grants to young and established scientists working in academic institutions.
The annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s raises awareness and funds for these initiatives. I started a new team this year with my friend Candy Kawamura, F.A.S.T. (Fremont Alzheimer’s Support Team) Walkers, because there was no community team from the Fremont area participating in the walk and beacause we wanted to educate and move the community to make a difference. The team is accepting anyone in the Bay Area interested in making a difference in realizing the dream for a world without Alzheimer’s Disease. We’ll be participating in the San Francisco walk. To join F.A.S.T. Walkers, go to http://walktoendalz.kintera.org/sf11/FASTwalkers, or contact email@example.com.
San Francisco walk: Saturday, Sept. 24, 8 a.m. check-in, 10 a.m. walk. Mission Creek Park, 290 Channel St., San Francisco. (650) 962-8111. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Los Angeles walk: Sunday, Oct. 9, 7 a.m. Century Park, Century City, L.A. (323) 930-6228. email@example.com.
San Jose walk: Saturday, Oct. 15, 8:30 a.m. check-in, 10 a.m. (650) 962-8111. firstname.lastname@example.org. Arena Green Park, Downtown San Jose. Free parking at the HP Pavilion.
Dana Point walk: Saturday, Oct. 15, 7:30 a.m. Doheny State Beach, Dana Point. (949) 757-3708. email@example.com.
For more information, go to http://alz.org.
Praveena Raman is a volunteer at the Alzheimer’s Association and has been a member of the San Francisco Walk Planning Committee for the past two years. She is also the founder and team captain of F.A.S.T. Walkers.