Community fights Alzheimer's disease one step at a time (video)
Sept. 7, 2013 at 4:07 a.m.
Updated Sept. 8, 2013 at 4:08 a.m.
As a trained nurse, Sharon Simms knew exactly what was ailing her father when his health began to decline.
He was angry.
He was grumpy.
He was paranoid.
After a 2009 family vacation, he got worse. "He would ask a question, and then a few minutes later, he'd turn around and ask you the same question," Simms, 49, said.
Her father was showing early signs of a disease that affects more than 5 million Americans.
He has Alzheimer's.
Simms and about 300 other people gathered in DeLeon Plaza early Saturday morning decked out in purple shirts to participate in the fifth annual Victoria County Walk to End Alzheimer's.
The mile walk through downtown raises money for care, support and research efforts for those impacted by Alzheimer's disease. Last year, it raised about $50,000, said coordinator Mindy Brown.
Brown, who lost her grandfather to Alzheimer's disease, said she is passionate about the event and its cause.
Brown did not live in the state when her grandfather was sick and said getting behind the event is her way of helping.
Alzheimer's disease is an age-related, nonreversible brain disorder that develops over a period of time. It is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death among the top 10 in America without a way to prevent it, cure it or slow its progression, according to the Alzheimer's Association website.
Simms said her father's mental decline was quick. "Within a year and a half of being diagnosed, we had to put him in a memory care unit," she said. "Sometimes, he knows who I am, and sometimes, he doesn't. It's hard to handle when he doesn't."
Her father lives at Sodalis Elderly Care in Cuero. Her mother moved into a home next door to the assisted-care unit.
Simms said she cherishes her father's good days because he is sweet and gives a lot of hugs.
"He smiles," she said.
Simms' father was a maintenance supervisor at the Dow Chemical Company in Seadrift, and she said his careful financial planning and long-term care insurance afforded him the medical attention he needed.
Some, however, aren't as lucky. According to the Alzheimer's Association website, the disease has cost the nation about $203 billion in 2013 - a number that is expected to rise to $1.2 trillion by 2050.
The money was raised during the rodeo event Saddle Up for Alzheimer's.
Hoagland said he has a special place in his heart for the cause because his family also was affected by the disease.
"We were hoping to give more money," he said.
Next year, he wants to bring a check for $15,000.
Simms, who is the director of nurses at Warm Springs Specialty Hospital in Victoria, said she finds comfort knowing that she's not alone and that so many of her industry friends showed up to walk Saturday.
"I became a nurse because I like helping people," she said. "I apply that philosophy to my father. It's helpful to know there are more people out there who suffer from this disease."