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Alzheimer's day care: A home away from home

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By Alicia Eakin - bio | email

October 27, 2008

VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - Alzheimer's disease is one of the fastest growing diseases of our time.

Right now, 15 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer's. That number is expected to double by the year 2030.

Valdosta State University sponsors a unique center that offers support for everyone effected by the diseases.

To 92 year-old Elmira Wright, it's a place to sing.

For 80 year-old Bill Ervin, it's place to be among friends.

"What we do here is have good companionship, talk to each other and what I like, after talking--glory glory hallelujah--is singing songs and hymns of praise," Ervin says.

Each year nearly 100 people with Alzheimer's, like Bill and Elmira, are brought to My Friend's House in Valdosta.

The house, sponsored by VSU, is an Alzheimer's daycare center that offers a variety of activities for patients and families.  Free of charge.

They say it's a place of warmth and where lost memories are reborn.  "She was a dancer, I heard about, when she was younger.. When she started attending the activities here at my friends house, it came out again," says caregiver Eltina Baker.

For their countless caregivers, it's a place of support.

"The diagnosis was a shock for the entire family. We really didn't know anything about dementia," says caregiver Betty Dejean.  "So the educational aspect cannot be underscored. What it teaches you about the disease and what to expect."

And a much needed get-away.

"I know while I'm at work, he's taken care of and in a place where he's loved and accepted and is cared for," says caregiver Laura Pitts.

But they say above all, it's a place that lends a helping hand so no one Affected by Alzheimer's has to endure it alone.

There is no cure for Alzheimer's and it's the sixth leading cause of death in the US. The latest statistics show nearly 73,000 people died from the disease in 2006. That number is expected to go up every year.

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