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Alzheimer's has replaced cancer as major medical fear
Senior moments
Rich DeLong is executive director of Station Exchange Senior Care. - photo by File photo

When I was a kid growing up in the northeastern hills of Pennsylvania, there was a word we all feared. Cancer! There is a thread of cancer that runs through my family history.

My father, sister and aunt all had complications with cancer. Plus, as a young boy I watched my parents agonize over friends who were diagnosed with the disease.

Through the years, I have had friends and children of good friends diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately, many of them came through with positive outcomes.

With all of the advancement in screenings and treatments for cancer, being diagnosed with the big “C” is not nearly as fatal as it once was. Make no mistake, cancer is no picnic in the park; but chances of survival with early detection and treatment are better than ever.

Today, the word that seems to be feared most is Alzheimer’s. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s; and the treatment only addresses the symptoms, not the disease itself. But, like cancer, advancement in treatments for Alzheimer’s will take time and money. Hopefully we will be able to persevere long enough to come up with a cure.

Till then, we must deal with the hard, cold fact that Alzheimer’s is among us, causing heartache, heartbreak and much concern. Alzheimer’s not only affects the diagnosed, it has a lasting impact on the health of family members and loved ones — of whom many become the primary caregivers. Nobody signs up for that job, but many have no other option. Alzheimer’s care can be both expensive and exhausting. And the likelihood that a care-taking spouse will die before the person being cared for is surprisingly high. Obviously, it makes sense, then, to get support from every avenue possible.

I came across a book recently that is a must-read for every person who has contact with someone who has Alzheimer’s. The book is titled “Welcome to Planet Alzheimer’s” and is written by Candace Stewart. Ms. Stewart knows firsthand the challenges facing families of loved ones with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease; two of her family members were diagnosed with the illness, including her mother.

Her personal and professional experience prompted her to write the book. It’s a short, to-the-point, 10-page booklet regarding communicating with someone who has Alzheimer’s, with a little laughter and love added in. You can contact me or swing by my office if you would like a complimentary copy.

Another resource is support groups. Both the Bryan County Health & Rehab Center and Station Exchange Senior Care sponsor support groups. Again, contact me for more information on the next meeting dates. Coming together with other folks who are dealing with some of the same care issues can be very helpful. At least you will know you are not alone.

I also want to tell you about a fun gathering we are having to raise both awareness and money for research for Alzheimer’s. Thursday, July 23, we will host a team rally at Flashback in Richmond Hill. Come between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. for some fun and entertainment. You can sign up for prizes and join our team of walkers for the Alzheimer’s walk in September — or maybe even start your own team.

Most important, you’ll spend an evening with other folks who are dealing with the effects of Alzheimer’s and are dedicated to doing something about it.

Stay blessed, my friends.

Contact DeLong at 912-531-7867 or visit him on the web at

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