Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 38
 
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
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It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton


REACHING OUT: “Memory Walk is a national fund-raiser held all over the country, and one is scheduled in Princeton on October 10,” explains Kenneth Zaentz, vice president of development for the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater New Jersey Chapter. Shown is a photo of the 2009 Memory Walk in Princeton.

Alzheimer’s Association, Greater New Jersey Chapter Plans “Memory Walk” Fund-raiser in Princeton

Currently, more than 5 million Americans are struggling with the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease, and nearly 11 million more act as caretakers for a loved one with the disease.

And, notes the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater New Jersey Chapter, if Alzheimer’s hasn’t touched your life yet, chances are it will in the future. As the population ages, it is estimated that by 2050, as many as 16 million Americans will develop the disease.

“The primary risk factor is age,” notes Kenneth Zaentz, vice president of development of the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater New Jersey Chapter, “but Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. It’s different from normal forgetting, and is a degenerative neurological disease in which brain cells die. Symptoms can be behavioral and physical.

“And although more older people have it, it is not confined just to the senior population. People can get it in their forties, fifties, and even thirties. There can be genetic factors involved.”

Current Care

The Alzheimer’s Association, with national headquarters in Chicago, is focused on the ultimate elimination of Alzheimer’s and the current care and support of those afflicted and their families.

“Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of it through the promotion of brain health,” explains Mr. Zaentz.

The New Jersey headquarters is in Denville, with regional offices in Princeton Junction, Oradell, and Red Bank.

Special fund-raising events, including golf and polo classics, are held regularly, and community outreach is emphasized. The organization also provides respite care for caregivers; a learning institute which includes a variety of education and training programs; support groups; a 24-hour, seven-day a week Helpline furnishing community resource information regarding caregiving issues; and a MedicAlert — a nationwide identification support and enrollment program providing assistance when an Alzheimer’s patient wanders from home and becomes lost.

First Number

The HelpLine program is often the first number people call to get information, reports Mr. Zaentz. “We provide a lot of information for people, letting them know about resources in their community. There are so many consequences to the families of people with Alzheimer’s.”

Support groups give emotional support to caregivers, as well as sharing helpful information. The respite care program offers needed “time out” for caregivers, and also gives financial assistance and supportive counseling for those in need.

Raising money to support continuing research and services is an ongoing challenge, adds Mr. Zaentz, and the upcoming annual Memory Walk fund-raiser is always a popular event.

This year’s 3-mile Princeton Memory Walk will be held at ETS on Sunday, October 10. Individuals can register that day at 9 a.m. at the site, or on-line at www.alz.org/nj. The walk begins at 10. All participants must obtain donations from individuals, organizations, or businesses who will sponsor them. People may also make a personal donation, and can participate in many ways: as a walker; supporting a walker, starting a walking team, or volunteering at the Memory Walk.

Far-Reaching

The local contact for the Princeton Memory Walk is Jeri Bogan-Zielinski at (609) 275-1180. All walkers who raise $125 or more will receive a Memory Walk T-shirt the day of the walk.

Mr. Zaentz has been with the Alzheimer’s Association for 13 years, and although there is currently no cure for the disease, which was identified in 1909 by Dr. Alois Alzheimer, he is encouraged by the scientific advances continuing to be made. “We know so much more about it than we did 25 years ago. People are becoming more and more aware of the disease. The challenge is raising money, but as more people do become aware of it and the far-reaching implications of the disease, they try to be generous, and we are able to make donations for further research and also do more for our families and expand our services.”

He points out that scientists have made enormous breakthroughs in understanding how Alzheimer’s affects the brain. At any given time, several hundred clinical studies are recruiting participants to help explore new approaches to treatment. Five studies at the Princeton Medical Institute are currently enrolling participants. (609) 921-6050.

“I have been working with non-profit organizations for my entire professional career,” continues Mr. Zaentz. “We all want to think we can do something to save the world. In working for an organization like this, we are trying to help in whatever way we can.”

To learn more about the Princeton branch of the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater New Jersey Chapter, call (609) 275-1180. Website: alz.org/nj.

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