Utah County raises Alzheimer’s awareness

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    By Keri Adams

    With more than 28,000 Utahns suffering from Alzheimer”s disease, Utah County is stepping up its campaign to raise awareness throughout the year.

    Karen Pettus, chairman of the Alzheimer”s Memory Walk for Provo, said the only Alzheimer”s event in Utah County is the annual Memory Walk, to raise money for Alzheimer”s programs and services in the state. But she would like to expand and include additional activities to also spread information in the community about the disease.

    “There really hasn”t been a lot of ground established as far as using the resources available in Provo and really getting the public aware of what Alzheimer”s is, what programs are available and what the money raised is for;” Pettus said. “Lots of people don”t know that there”s help out here. There are a lot of programs in Utah and there”s lots of help … we”re just trying to do everything we can to make this year a lot bigger and have Provo city”s mayor and the whole city more behind what we”re trying to do.”

    This year Pettus” committee, including members of the BYU Gerontology Department, a member of the city of Provo and members of local hospice and nursing services and senior centers, has put together various projects and events all throughout the year.

    “There are really a lot of exciting things we are working on to really get this [campaign] off the ground this year,” Pettus said. “Lots of people who have never had anyone in their family with Alzheimer”s or don”t know anyone who has the disease, don”t know what happens to the family or the person and the devastation that this disease brings. We have got the awareness out there because it can come to anybody at any time.”

    These projects include having the Provo mayor attend some of the events, involvement in the 14th Annual Gerontology Conference called “Generations Working Together” at BYU in March, putting together an Alzheimer”s awareness television program to run on the Provo channel and a grandparent appreciation essay contest involving Provo”s grade schools.

    “Hopefully this will bring more of the students and parents in the community into this issue,” Pettus said. “With grandparents and old people and now young people having Alzheimer”s, we just need to tie everyone in.”

    Mike Mower, director of Community and Governmental Relations for the city of Provo, after meeting with Pettus, said Provo city would be more than willing to help out in any way they can.

    “We [Provo city] appreciate everything [Pettus] is doing,” Mower said. “If all this helps only one person, then it”s definitely worth it.”

    One highlight of this year”s projects is a 104-year-old man, Dr. Russell Clark, to whom BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson will be presenting an aging award at the BYU March conference.

    Pettus” committee is hoping to use Clark as this year”s informal “poster child” because of the perfect example of aging and a healthy future that he is, Pettus said.

    Howard Gray, BYU professor of gerontology, said of Clark, “104 years old, he”s a medical doctor, a successful businessman, churchman, family man – he”s just wonderful.”

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