HORRY COUNTY S.C. (WBTW) — It’s Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, and it’s estimated 120,000 people in South Carolina over the age of 65 will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s by 2025.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association South Carolina Chapter, that’s an increase of 25,000 people compared to the estimated 95,000 in 2020.
Association officials said there are a variety of reasons the number of people living with Alzheimer’s is growing at an alarming rate.
The chapter’s vice president of communications Beth Sulkowski said South Carolina and the Grand Strand are retirement destinations.
She said the population is getting older which could play a role in the increase of Alzheimer’s patients.
Sulkowski also said the high number of Alzheimer’s patients corresponds with the high number of other health conditions people have in the state.
Diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure put people at risk for Alzheimer’s.
Sulkowski said they want to bring awareness to the fact that research shows things can be done that may lower the risk of getting the disease and increase brain health.
“Getting regular cardiovascular exercise, eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, getting plenty of sleep,” Sulkowski said. “Those things all accumulate towards giving ourselves the best possible shot at brain health.”
15-year-old Shaw Ashley from Little River started raising money for the Alzheimer’s Association in July 2020.
His grandmother, who had the disease, died later that year.
His great-grandmother, however, is still currently living with Alzheimer’s, and it hasn’t been an easy journey.
“My great-grandma would pick me up and she would take me home, I would spend the night at her house,” Ashley said. “I got along with her so well, and I just miss her knowing who I really am and who our family is.”
Ashley volunteers as the marketing and outreach committee chair for the Myrtle Beach Walk to End Alzheimer’s in honor of his grandmother and great-grandmother.
He’s raised more than $5,000 to aid the fight to end Alzheimer’s.
He said he raises money so that maybe one day they’ll find a cure or a medication to slow the progression of the disease.
“I’m not ever going to get my grandma or my great-grandma back how they were, but if there was something that could slow it down, that way those good days happen more often than the bad days, and we get a glimpse at how they were ten years ago, that’s all we want,” Ashley said.
Ashley’s advice to families with Alzheimer’s patients is to spend as much time with them as possible.
“The more they see you the more they attempt to remember who you are or the more they do remember, because if my great-grandma, if her children didn’t live here, she might forget them a whole lot quicker than she would if they don’t see her every day,” Ashley said.
The Alzheimer’s Association said more than six million Americans are living with the disease.
The association offers free resources and support to any families that need it.