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Savannah Walk for Alzheimer’s continues fight for a cure

  • Mary Evelyn Phillips, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and daughter Kelly Wall. Wall is reaching out to the community, talking about Alzheimer’s disease and raising money to find a cure. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Wall)
  • Mary Evelyn Phillips in the emergency room with her granddaughter KayLyn Jowers. “My daughter was a huge help to me in this process of taking care of Mother,” Kelly Wall said of KayLyn. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Wall)
 

Savannah Walk for Alzheimer’s continues fight for a cure

26 Sep 2017

Kelly Wall picked up her mother from her nursing home on Wilmington Island and they evacuated to their family home in Millen, Ga., on Sept. 7. While she trusted the nursing home plans regarding Hurricane Irma, Wall, a registered nurse, wanted to be with her.

“My mother had been sick and going down really fast. She got sepsis several times,” Wall said of 72-year-old Mary Evelyn Phillips.

Once out of town, her mother got sepsis again, so they headed for a hospital near Millen.

“When I took her to the emergency room, I did the IV and the Foley catheter,” Wall said. “I told them to let me because she has Alzheimer’s … They can get very irritated.”

Wall knew what was best for her mother and how to manage her care, not because Wall is a nurse, but because of the information she received through the Alzheimer’s Association.

“I dealt with evacuating her and taking care of her,” Wall said. “… My daughter was a huge help to me in this process of taking care of Mother.” They returned to Wilmington Island on Sept. 13.

The association’s information helped during the time in an unfamiliar place.

“The Alzheimer’s Association has put a new light on how this disease acts. It has helped me to understand why she does things she does and how things come about,” Wall said.

“… Having her in Millen, in the country, you have to explain to [an Alzheimer’s patient] hourly where they are. They can go take a nap, wake up, and think they are somewhere else. … It breaks my heart. I know she is confused and her thought process isn’t working and understanding what is happening.”

Wall’s mother was diagnosed with dementia about six years ago and with Alzheimer’s 3 ½ years ago. Four years ago, Phillips “got in a car and drove at midnight one night. She was in Douglas and drove to Tipton,” Wall said. “She had a cerebral convulsion, a seizure-type activity, crossed the center lane and hit a pine tree head on. We are blessed she did not kill herself or anyone else. From that day forward, she has not lived alone.”

Wall connected with the association and got involved a year ago. Why did she wait? “I was in denial,” Wall said. “It’s a grieving process. ‘My momma? No. They have misdiagnosed her.’”

She went to lunch with local Walk to End Alzheimer’s event manager Chris Waters, who talked about her dad’s diagnosis while Wall spoke of her mother.

“It was an emotional day ... As the disease progresses, we understand, with parents with Alzheimer’s, that one day down the road we will walk into a room and they will not know who we are.

“That’s why we are on board to stop this disease, because it attacks so progressively and quickly. I can’t just sit by and do nothing.

“I want to help educate the public, the people who do not understand what is going on with this disease. It’s not just dementia. With Alzheimer’s, it’s a disease, something we need to fight for and get a cure for just like cancer and just like Parkinson’s. They are all debilitating diseases. It’s hard for your parent or patient to have the physical capacity but not to have the mental capacity to tell the body what to do.”

Wall will be at the Walk for Alzheimer’s Sept. 30 at Ellis Square, which is followed by the Crawl to End Alzheimer’s bar crawl. Walk participants will complete a 2 ½-mile walk and will learn about Alzheimer’s disease, advocacy opportunities, clinical studies enrollment and support programs and services from the Alzheimer’s Association. There will be live music and a tribute ceremony to honor those affected by the disease. The bar crawl registration is free to those who register for the walk and are 21 or older.

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. and the only disease among the top 10 causes that cannot be cured, prevented or even slowed. Additionally, more than 15 million family and friends provide care to people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias in the U.S.

In Georgia alone, there are more than 140,000 people living with the disease and 519,000 caregivers.

Wall also just signed on to the Alzheimer’s Impact movement to help raise money and advocate in Washington, D.C. After all, President Ronald Reagan had Alzheimer’s.

“It is so amazing that it is the smartest people that get this,” Wall said. “My mother, she ran a multi-million-dollar national company [Elixir Industries]. She was the only secretary my step-dad had. Today there are probably 40 secretaries doing what my mom did 35 to 40 years ago.

“The No. 1 thing the Alzheimer’s Association taught me was how to communicate with my mother with Alzheimer’s. A touch is the last thing a person can feel when you die. That is what an Alzheimer’s patient needs every day. A hug, a kiss, eye contact and a smile.”

IF YOU GO

What: Walk for Alzheimer’s

When: Sept. 30; registration at 4 p.m.; ceremony at 5 p.m. followed by walk

Where: Ellis Square

Info: georgiawalk.org, alz.org, alzimpact.org

ALSO HAPPENING

What: Crawl to End Alzheimer’s Charity Bar Crawl

When: 4-10 p.m. Sept. 30

Where: Pick up scorecards from 4-7 p.m. in Ellis Square

Cost: $5 in advance; $10 day of event; free for ages 21 and older with Walk for Alzheimer’s registration bracelet

Info: barcrawlsavannah.com

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