BUFFALO - John Asaro was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease about 18 months ago, after his children began questioning why he was repeating himself so often, and he started having serious problems with directions while driving.
"We were actually relieved when we learned the diagnosis, because we finally knew what was wrong with him," said Eileen, John's wife.
They were referred to the Alzheimer's Association Western New York Chapter by their nurse practitioner.
Pictured are John and Eileen Asaro.
"It was like the sun coming out after the rain," said John after reaching out to the chapter. He and his wife have attended social programs, support groups and educational seminars.
"The chapter's support groups are vital," said Eileen. "You share your pain and frustration and learn from each other, because with this disease, every day is different."
For John, the chapter is a refuge.
"I am most comfortable around the friends I've made here because I can relate to them," he said.
John is also an ardent "bell-ringer" trying to raise awareness about Alzheimer's.
"People are frightened and don't know how to react because there are a lot of misconceptions about it," he said. "But I don't hide it. I have a disease ... I don't eat children. I am trying to spread the word to others to see a doctor, and get help from the chapter."
John and Eileen plan to take part in the chapter's Walk to End Alzheimer's on Sept. 20 in Delaware Park behind the Buffalo Zoo.
The Walk is the chapter's major fundraiser for the year, which sustains programs like support groups and educational seminars.
"When the doctor told me I had Alzheimer's, I thought my life would change drastically," John said. "But with the help of the wonderful people at the chapter, I've learned to replace the things I can no longer do, with things I can."
Walks are also planned in Chautauqua and Orleans counties on Sept. 6; Genesee and Niagara counties on Sept. 27; and in Wyoming County on October 4. More information is available online at www.alz.org/WNY or by calling 1-800-272-3900.
The local walk, set for Saturday, Sept. 6, at Chautauqua Institution, begins with registration at 9 a.m. The opening ceremony starts at 10, and the walk gets underway at 10:10.
The Walk to End Alzheimer's in WNY is made possible through the support of Tim Hortons, West Herr Toyota, Elderwood and Media One Group.