AKA sorority brings Alzheimer's awareness to the Daegu community

by Mary B. Grimes and Lee, Na-eun (Intern)

USAG Daegu –Few would argue that USAG Daegu, like the Department of Defense, frequently produces a host of fun and exciting activities. From a Labor Day picnic to a warrior triathlon, a soldier-studded musical performance, or a visit to a historic cave or a temple stay, Soldiers, family members, DoD Civilians and retirees often have at their disposal what many might consider enviable quality of life opportunities.

For the USAG Daegu and Area IV community, the drive to ensure such well-being initiatives are kept on the front line of service, organizations like Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority, Inc., can be counted on to lend a helping hand. In late June of this year, the Rho Nu Omega Chapter, AKA, in support of the Alzheimer's Association, led the Area IV community in an Alzheimer awareness effort at the Camp Walker Exchange. Called "The Longest Day," the event is held annually on the summer solstice. During that time, from sunrise to sunset, the period symbolizes the challenging journey of those living with the disease, as well as the challenges confronting their caregivers.

While there is no shortage of definitions for Alzheimer's disease, many recognize it as the most common form of dementia. Medical experts identify it as a neurologic disease marked by loss of mental ability that is severe enough to interfere with routine events or activities associated with daily living. Caregivers, those very special, loving people who commit themselves to taking care of an elderly family member or friend, understand firsthand the struggles involved in the decline in their loved one's cognitive functions such as remembering, reasoning and planning.

Thanks to the interest and dedication of the Rho Nu Omega Chapter, the AKA-sponsored Alzheimer’s event shed greater light on a disease that leaves many in darkness. AKA provided the curious passerby, as well as inquiring family members seeking to expand their knowledge on a topic that is by many accounts increasingly affecting elderly men and women across wide segments of society, a chance to explore some of the causes of Alzheimer's, treatments for the illness, the impact, and dementia prevention strategies.

For AKA member Tanya G. Hamilton, the Camp Walker event struck a meaningful and lasting chord. In her own life, she is a caregiver for her father-in-law who is living with Alzheimer's disease. She spoke of diagnostic tests and treatment. She said, "During Stage I, the unimpaired person doesn’t experience any memory problems. It’s also at that stage that memory problems are not evident to the health care professional during the medical interview. In Stage II, however, there is a very mild decline. At this time the individual might feel as though he is experiencing such things as lapses in memory…forgetting where he or she may have placed things like their eyeglasses or keys, and even forgetting words or names that were once familiar to them.”

Health officials stress that it is important to understand that Alzheimers is not a “one size fits all” situation. In fact, there are several staging systems associated with the Alzheimer’s process. Medical officials point out that the stages do vary from person to person, and not every individual will experience the same symptoms at the same time. Clearly, Hamilton and AKA understand all too well, the need for greater awarenerss of Alzheimer’s disease. Speaking of her own experience with her family member she said, “It is not uncommon that people confronted by the disease will sometime try to hide the fact. Understandably, it's very frustrating for them to accept the truth. As time goes on, they lose track of where they are, and gradually, lose touch with the most basic things. These realities bring hardship and sadness to not only the caregiver, but to family members, and friends as well.”

The AKA sorority sisters agreed that education is key to helping people understand both the sensitivities and the impact Alzheimer’s can have on the lives it has touched. Maj. Octavia L. Davis, 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC), Support Operations (SPO), played an integral role in promoting the AKA event.  When asked about the purpose behind the activity, she firmly stated, “Alzheimer’s awareness is something we have to keep on the frontburner. As members of the Rho Nu Omega Chapter, AKA, we wanted to play a part in ensuring that it is.”

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