September 27, 2013

Cross-country trek brings attention to plight of Alzheimer's

Misty Watson

— William Glass is moving from the Chicago area to the Atlanta area, but he’s not flying or driving there.

He’s walking.

He’s moving to be closer to his mother, Eileen Glass, who developed Alzheimer’s disease about four years ago.

Glass is using his more than 750-mile trek southward as a way to raise awareness about the disease and meet with members of Congress to ask them to support the HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act (S. 709/H.R. 1507), which is designed to help expand dementia diagnosis and provide information on services available for the patient and their families.

“Mom has Alzheimer’s. She was diagnosed about four years ago. She lives in Atlanta, and there’s no history of Alzheimer’s in our family,” Glass told staff members of U.S. Rep. Tom Graves in his Dalton office on Thursday as he passed through Dalton.

“I want to do something to honor her,” he said. “I don’t want to see any other Americans going through what we’re going through. Here’s the way I can help.”

Glass, who worked as a manager for a fine dining restaurant, set out on Aug. 5. He had expected to arrive in Atlanta on day 50, just in time to rest before the Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Saturday. But Thursday was day 51. He’s planning to have a friend pick him up for the Walk, then bring him back to finish his trek.

Everywhere he goes, Glass speaks to people about the disease, in restaurants, at hotels, while having more business cards printed. He connects with the local Alzheimer’s Association chapters and with legislators to share people’s stories.

“(Graves) understands there’s a great need,” said Tracey Bartley, the constituent services director in Graves’ office, who has a family member with Alzheimer’s. “We know there’s a lot of fear with the unknown. It’s very hard to watch. You feel hopeless and scared.”

The legislation would help make sure patients and caregivers are aware of the support out there for them, including medical and non-medical. It would also help with early detection so that families can start planning for what’s to come. The Dalton office does not handle legislation, but planned to send the information to Graves’ Washington office, which does.

“This will be shared with the congressman,” Bartley told Glass. “Thank you for your dedication. It’s a horrifying disease. What you’re doing is admirable.”

Glass said he has been surprised with the number of people who have been affected by Alzheimer’s.

“I do a lot of listening,” he said. “It’s about them and what they can do. There is hope out there.”

Though Glass can average about 25 miles a day walking, there are days he only walks five because “I’m sitting there talking to people,” he said.

Freda Stephenson, director of development for the North Georgia Regional Office of the Alzheimer’s Association, said she admires Glass and is thankful Dalton was one of his stops.

“He’s touched so many lives,” she said. “He can reach people we can’t. He’s our feet on the ground.”

The Alzheimer’s Association is there to help anyone dealing with the disease, whether a patient or a caregiver, and no matter a person’s income.

Glass said getting involved in Saturday’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s is an easy way to help. There is one in Dalton that begins at the Dalton Depot restaurant. Registration starts at 9 a.m.