Tiny lights honor Alzheimer’s patients

Published 10:37 am Saturday, November 8, 2008

AHOSKIE – Alzheimer’s – that one word strikes fear in the heart of as many as 4 million Americans.

With a half-moon floating in and out of a partly cloudy sky here Thursday night, a small crowd gathered at Ahoskie’s No Man’s Land Park to conduct a brief candlelight ceremony in honor and memory of Alzheimer’s patients and family members whose lives have been interrupted by this sad disease.

“Those affected by Alzheimer’s will never again be able to enjoy independence,” said Alice Sharpe who spoke as part of the 35-minute tribute. “It’s an extremely sad disease, one marked by a loss of memory. It’s sad to think that a person cannot even think of the names of their loved ones, perhaps not even recognizing them by face.”

Sharpe continued, “Family members have to step in and provide care for their loved ones. This is not a job for just one person, especially if that person providing the care is an elderly spouse.”

According to the numbers, Sharpe said Alzheimer’s affects 40 percent of persons ages 65 and older in North Carolina. Unfortunate as that is, it gets worse as Sharpe added that research reveals that number will soon increase to 50 percent.

“We need to let everyone know these facts,” Sharpe noted.

She went on to stress that despite millions of dollars invested to date in research, there is no known cure for the disease. Once diagnosed, Alzheimer’s patients can expect to live 8-to-12 years.

Sharpe added there is a small ray of hope, that coming in the form of a medication that slows the progress of the disease.

“It’s extremely important to see a doctor at the outset of the symptoms of this disease and be placed on this medication,” Sharpe said.

Thursday’s ceremony included songs of inspiration from the Soul Saving Station Church Choir and Ahoskie Mayor Linda Blackburn’s reading of a special proclamation adopted by the Ahoskie Town Council addressing the health concerns of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Also taking part in the ceremony were Daphne Lee of the Hertford County Office of Aging who read a heartwarming poem entitled, “Love me for who I am.”

Rev. Joe Lassiter of Open Arms Church and Rev. Donnie Graham of Soul Saving Station Church each offered words of love and encouragement through prayer to Alzheimer’s patients and their families.

The candle lighting portion of the event came at 7 p.m., a time previously set aside for thousands of candles to be lit statewide.