Therapist camps out for Alzheimer's awareness

Friday, June 9, 2006
Eva James set up camp in front of the Missouri Veterans Home to raise awareness for Alzheimer's disease. (AARON EISENHAUER)

This is the second time she has spent a day in front of the Missouri Veterans Home.

A wild bear was the only thing Eva James worried about Thursday morning as she prepared to camp for the next 24 hours on the front lawn of the Missouri Veterans Home.

James, an activities therapist at the veterans home, used a vacation day from work to camp for 24 hours to raise awareness for Alzheimer's disease, which attacks the brain and results in impaired memory, thinking and behavior. More than 66,000 people in the Alzheimer's Association St. Louis chapter, which covers 38 counties, have been diagnosed with the disease.

James, of Jackson, said another purpose of the 24-hour camp is to make people aware of the various Alzheimer's support groups and fund-raisers in the area. "This disease not only affects the individual but the family as well. Everyone involved is affected by it," she said.

On Sept. 23, the annual Memory Walk will be held at Capaha Park in Cape Girardeau. The walk raises money for the Alzheimer's Association, which provides services and support for those suffering from the disease.

No one in James' family is affected by Alzheimer's, but she works with 50 residents suffering from the disease at the Missouri Veterans Home.

Last year was James' first Alzheimer's awareness 24-hour camp. She hopes to continue the camp on a yearly basis.

"I'm really trying to get the awareness out there and get more people involved," she said. "I don't mind being out here by myself unless I see a bear."

On Sunday, a car struck and killed a 200-pound black bear within Jackson city limits.

Alzheimer's has received media attention in recent days after an elderly Wayne County woman with the disease went missing. Hazel Roach, 73, was reported missing Saturday and was found alive Tuesday night after an extensive search.

Dorothy Hutchinson-Gross, communications coordinator with the Alzheimer's Association, said there are programs to help track missing Alzheimer's patients. One such program is Safe Return, which uses an identification bracelet with a tracking number registered with the association.

Another fairly new tracking device -- Care Trak --was created in 1986 in Carbondale, Ill., for autistic children. Recently, Care Trak became available for Alzheimer patients, said Michael Chylewski, vice president of Care Trak International Inc. The patient receives a wrist transmitter that emits a radio signal. If the patient leaves his property, an alarm sounds.

Chylewski said a person can be tracked up to a mile away from home.

jfreeze@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 246

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