Before beginning my internship with the Alzheimer’s Association, I knew very little about the devastating effects of this disease. When I was asked to interview an individual with Alzheimer’s disease to help explain the reason for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, I learned more than I expected.
Upon meeting Leon Bryan, he struck me first and foremost as a refined gentleman. He refused to be interviewed in his room because, “There’s no proper place for you to sit, ” and then described the idea of eating his lunch and being interviewed at the same time as being “unsatisfactory.” We made ourselves comfortable in the living room section of Southern Care Assisted Living’s Memory Care wing in Tifton, where Bryan currently resides.
A native of Ashburn, Bryan spent most of his adult life in the major metropolitan areas of New York and San Francisco. He is a 1951 graduate of Berry College in Rome, a former Navy seaman and a former writer for United Press International in New York City in the 1950s and later in San Francisco. Bryan also worked in public relations for the world-famous industrialist and shipbuilder, Henry J. Kaiser, who organized Kaiser Permanente health care for his workers and their families.
Asked about being a writer, Bryan was dismayed that it could be considered of interest to anyone, saying “It was hard work. You have to be very careful to get everything right.” He did say, “I stick by the saying the pen is mightier than the sword.” While I was intrigued by Bryan’s life as a writer, as a hopeful writer myself, he clearly didn’t want to say any more about it. I was also there to discuss his reason for returning to South Georgia.
First, he said uncertainly, “I suppose that’s where I am … South Georgia.” And then he began to discuss the disease that brought him back home. Bryan suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, which he describes as a disease of the mind. “It’s scary. You’re afraid you’re going to say the wrong thing at the wrong time … all the time.”
This fear and the difficulties that these individuals face are the reasons that we walk in the annual Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Tifton’s fifth annual walk will be held at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College Sept. 28, beginning with registration at 9 a.m. The walk starts at 10.
We walk to raise awareness about this devastating disease that currently affects as many as 5.3 million Americans and to promote advocacy for those people and their families that are affected by Alzheimer’s disease. For more information, visit alz.org, enter your zip code and click on “Tifton.” Anyone may form a team, join a team, sign up walk to as an individual or donate online.
Note: Southern Care Assisted Living is sponsoring an Alzheimer’s Association fundraising event at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 27 at Leroy Rogers Senior Center. The barbecue dinner and dessert auction features entertainment by the famous Adel Gospel group “The Believers.” Tickets are $8 and must be purchased in advance at Southern Care’s front desk or call Penny Hancock or Courtney Malott at 386-2273. Funds raised will be credited to the Southern Care Team in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
Jordan Gill is a senior in the Rural Studies program with an emphasis in writing and communication at ABAC. She is working as a student intern with the Alzheimer’s Association, helping with fundraising and community events.