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Alzheimer's Association Offers Workshops to Help Residents Understand, Prepare for the Disease

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More than five million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer's Disease, and almost 50,000 of them are here in West Virginia.

Statistics show that 1/3 of seniors who die every year has Alzheimer's Disease or another type of dementia. While there is no cure, preparation is key for those ready to fight the disease head-on.

For Jack Burton of Fairmont, Alzheimer's disease is personal.

"My mother, who was in her 90s, she says, 'Well, do you think you could take me back home to see my mother? Because she's gonna be worried about me," said Jack.

His wife, Velma, says the disease has affected her side of the family as well.

"My sister, Virginia, she shuffled her feet. I never thought anything about it, but now I feel like that's probably a symptom," said Velma.

That's why the Burtons drove up to Morgantown on Monday afternoon for a workshop given by the Alzheimer's Association.

"The majority of people with Alzheimer's disease are cared for in their own homes by family members," said Amy Ernst, program director for the Alzheimer's Association's West Virginia chapter

The event was open to anyone wanting to learn more about the disease and the different types of dementias that affect people as they age.

Warning signs can range anywhere from problems with speaking or writing to losing the ability to retrace steps.

"Number one: document that. Make sure they're writing it down and journaling that somewhere so they have the best information to recall for themselves," said Ernst.

Ernst said it's important for family members to understand that they can not care for their loved one alone.

"Develop a caregiver support network that will help to support them, as well as the person they're caring for," said Ernst.

The Burtons, who are in their 80s, say they want to prepare for the unexpected, no matter what that entails.

"We need to know everything we can because we might be able to help ourselves as we grow older. I hope to grow up to be 90 or older," said Velma.

Other workshops are scheduled for February 19 and 20 at 1 p.m. The topics will be "Knowing the 10 Signs of Alzheimer's" and two-hour professional training, respectively.

They will be held at the organization's office on Pineview Drive in Morgantown.

Those interested can call (304) 599-1159.