When someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, there is more than one victim: It also affects a patient's loved ones.
"It's such an emotional drain on the caregivers," Jeri Diehl Cusack said.
"It's so hard to watch someone you love go through this terrible journey," she said. "You watch as they struggle through increasing confusion until they lose the ability to do the simple things they've been able to do forever and ever.
"It's heartbreaking," said the Grandview Heights resident, who lost both her mother and father to the incurable disease and has now seen her mother-in-law diagnosed with another type of dementia.
Cusack is one of thousands of central Ohio residents who will participate in the Columbus Walk to End Alzheimer's on Sept. 24 at Huntington Park. The event will begin at 2 p.m. with an opening ceremony followed by the 1.25-mile walk at 2:15 p.m.
"I call my team 'Hurry Up Cure,' because that's what I'm hoping for -- that we get a cure as soon as possible," Cusack said.
"It's personal for me because I know that the data show someone who has lost both parents to Alzheimer's is 10 percent more likely to suffer dementia themselves."
Marble Cliff resident Charmaine Hamilton participates in the Delaware County walk held near her hometown of Marysville. She lost her mother to Alzheimer's.
"I support the walk and the Alzheimer's Association because I would hate to see anybody go through what this insidious disease puts you through," Hamilton said. "I want to do all I can to help raise the funds and awareness that someday may help lead to a cure."
Hamilton's family also hosts an annual golf outing, Tee It Up, to raise funds for the Delaware County walk.
She will serve as a volunteer at the Sept. 24 Columbus event.
The walks are bittersweet for her, Hamilton said.
"It's wonderful to see so many people come out to support the cause and to know you're not alone in the struggle," she said. "But it also brings back the memories of my mom.
"Every time I would see her, there would be a little less of her," Hamilton said. "It was so hard to see her quality of life slip away."
More than 3,000 people participated in the 2016 Columbus walk, one of five events held each year in the 14-county area served by the central Ohio chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, said Ginger Brehl, director of marketing and communications for the chapter.
"The walk is our largest fundraising event but it's about more than just raising funds -- it's also about raising awareness about Alzheimer's," Brehl said.
Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
About 5.5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's dementia and about 5.3 million of those are age 65 and older, Brehl said.
"As the population ages, we are seeing more cases of Alzheimer's disease being diagnosed," she said.
Cusack, who volunteers several days a month at the central Ohio Alzheimer's Association office on Dublin Road near Grandview, will participate in the opening ceremony at the Columbus walk representing families who have lost someone to the disease.
Walkers who have lost a loved one will receive a purple flower pinwheel to wear. Blue flowers represent someone with Alzheimer's or dementia, yellow flowers are for those currently caring for or supporting an Alzheimer's patient and walkers who support the cause are given an orange flower.
"We are looking for the day when we will be able to give out a white flower to someone who has survived Alzheimer's," Brehl said.
"That's what we are all working toward," Cusack said. "Won't it be amazing, when there is a cure or treatment for Alzheimer's?"
More information about the walk and a link to Cusack's team's home page are available online at act.alz.org.