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Members of the Morningside Mavericks know and understand how terrible Alzheimer’s disease can be.

At Morningside House in Waldorf, a senior community that provides independent and assisted living options for elderly folks, including care for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia, Morningside employees help people with the disease and provide support to their families.

The Mavericks, a walking team made up of Morningside employees, their families and friends, will take strides Saturday during the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Debbie Flynn, Morningside’s marketing manager, has been a member of the team for the last two years.

She said that she walks to raise awareness for a disease that doesn’t get as much time in the spotlight as some others do.

“I think because it deals with the mind and memory issues, people don’t want to deal with it,” Flynn said.

But, she said, in recent years, well-known people — Ronald Reagan, country singer Glen Campbell and former Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt — have made their struggle with Alzheimer’s known and prompted conversation about the disease.

“A lot more people are talking about it,” Flynn said.

The numbers are something to talk about.

One in two people 85 and older and one in eight people 65 or older will develop Alzheimer’s disease, according to research conducted by the Alzheimer’s Association.

There are 86,000 people with Alzheimer’s in Maryland, 130,000 in Virginia and 9,100 in Washington, D.C., the research states.

By 2050, 16 million will have the disease, according to the research.

Susan Kudla Finn, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association National Capital Area Chapter, has called Alzheimer’s a “silver tsunami.”

It is the country’s sixth leading cause of death, and the only one in the top 10 causes that has no treatment to prevent, cure or slow down its progression.

The annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s will be Saturday at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf, with another in Solomons Island.

Both walks start with an 8:30 a.m. check in, an opening ceremony at 9:30 a.m. and the walk at 10 a.m.

The Alzheimer’s Association has been holding walks to fund research and education since 1989.

So far, about 419 people have signed up for the Waldorf walk and about 300 are slated to walk in Solomons, said LaKeysha Boyd-Moore, manager of events in Southern Maryland for the association’s National Capital Area chapter.

“It’s our largest fundraising effort,” Boyd-Moore said.

Not only does the money go toward finding a cure, it funds programs for caregivers; services for those in the early stages of the disease; and safety and education programs for patients, families, caregivers and the public.

Flynn added that for families dealing with Alzheimer’s, care facilities are one of the first places many call for information and advice.

“We share information and point people in the right direction,” she said. “People need to feel that they’re not alone.”

Morningside also holds a support group for families and caregivers on the first Wednesday of each month.

It is open to everyone, not only those who have a family member at Morningside, Flynn said.

Lori Spears, the Maverick team captain, walks in memory of her late grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s.

Raising awareness and funding a cure is “near and dear to my heart,” said Spears, a marketing counselor at Morningside.

Spears has been studying her family’s genealogy for about eight years and has noticed health issues in the family tree.

“I dig deep to see what I can find,” she said. “I like knowing the family history ... knowing what we’re up against. [Alzheimer’s] hits close to home. ... It’s not given the attention it deserves.”

Participating in fundraisers for the Alzheimer’s Association will help bring more attention to the disease, Spears said.

“I honestly think it needs to be put out there more,” said Victoria Miller, a certified nursing assistant at Morningside, who has worked with seniors for two years.

She said she enjoys talking to them and listening to their stories, and doesn’t want Alzheimer’s to rob them of their memories.

“For me, it’s better than history class,” she said.

Walk To End Alzheimer’s will be Sept. 21 at Regency Furniture Stadium, 11765 St. Linus Drive, Waldorf, and at Asbury Solomons, 11100 Asbury Circle, Solomons. Check in is at 8:30 a.m., program at 9 a.m. and walk at 10 a.m. Go to www.alz.org for more information or call LaKeysha Boyd-Moore at 301-934-5856.

staylor@somdnews.com.