Walking to battle Alzheimer's disease
By Nancy Weaver
Teichert -- Bee Staff Writer - (Published October
Every Saturday morning, Hal Gardiner and Bill Van
der Borght leave their retirement homes in Sun City
Roseville and drive to the town of Dixon to eat blueberry
pancakes and visit their wives.
On the way to the residential care home,
the two men share the drive and their thoughts about
what it's like to lose a spouse to Alzheimer's disease.
A retired engineer, Van der Borght,
79, remembered the worst moment was when he left his
wife Mollie at the 36-bed care home. "I felt
like the biggest heel on Earth after almost 50 years
of marriage," he said.
Gardiner, 81, a retired pilot, recalled
the first time he returned home alone without Dorothy.
"It dawned on me (that) it's the end of an era,"
On Saturday, the Alzheimer's Association
will hold its annual Memory Walk to help raise money
for research and services. There are an estimated
40,000 people in the greater Sacramento area with
Alzheimer's or related dementia. That number is predicted
to grow to 140,000 by 2050.
New projections warn that the Alzheimer's
epidemic will be worse than anticipated, but doctors
remain optimistic about new drugs to slow the progressive
deterioration caused by the disease.
Last week,, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
received an endorsement from an advisory group to
approve the active ingredient memantine -- the first
drug treatment for patients with moderate to severe
"It's another step forward,"
said Dr. William Jagust, director of the Alzheimer's
Center at the University of California, Davis, who
said most drugs available now are for the treatment
of those with mild to moderate disease.In two studies,
the patients who took memantine improved, but the
effect was not substantial, Jagust said.
The aging of baby boomers is expected
to add greatly to the numbers of Alzheimer's patients.
A recent article in the Archives of Neurology predicted
the incidence of Alzheimer's will increase by 27 percent
by 2020, 70 percent by 2030 and nearly 300 percent
by 2050.The Alzheimer's Association has warned that
without more treatments to delay or slow the disease,
the epidemic will bankrupt Medicare and Medicaid.
Jagust is optimistic that a treatment
will be developed in the next five to 10 years that
will make a significant improvement in slowing the
.In its upcoming Memory Walk, the Greater
Sacramento Area Chapter of the Northern California/
Northern Nevada Alzheimer's Association hopes to raise
$150,000 for research and services to patients and
their families, said President Tracy Potts.The association
runs a Safe Return program that works with emergency
medical personnel to return lost patients to their
homes or care facilities.
A 24-hour help line is available for
families with questions or a crisis at (800) 660-1993.
The association also sponsors support groups.Gardiner,
who is active in the Sun City Roseville support group,
said he urges people who believe they may be showing
symptoms to see a doctor, because early detection
can slow the disease and keep patients home longer.
Van der Borght said he encourages families
to purchase a good long-term-care policy. A care facility
for Alzheimer's patients can cost thousands of dollars
About the Writer
The Bee's Nancy Weaver Teichert can be reached at
(916) 321-1058 or firstname.lastname@example.org.