Yakima woman raising Alzheimer's awareness in honor of late husb - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Yakima woman raising Alzheimer's awareness in honor of late husband

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WASHINGTON - Washington state has the fifth highest Alzheimer's death rate in the U.S., with over 110 million people living with the fatal disease. Governor Jay Inslee has declared the month of June as Brain and Alzheimer Awareness Month.

Debbie Hunter has seen firsthand what the disease can do to a person and to a family. Her husband, Chris Hunter, was 45 when he was diagnosed in 2008. He was one of the youngest people ever to get diagnosed with the disease in Yakima.

"It was very devastating for the whole family; I could still remember the day he was told," Debbie recalled. Chris was so young that trying to find help anywhere in the county was extremely difficult.

The disease is most commonly found in seniors and people over the age of 60. One of the common symptoms is wandering. Chris Hunter would frequently leave the house without his family knowing. The constant wandering took a toll not only on Debbie but her three kids. 

"The kids were great, but they basically became caregivers overnight. They all three were in school," Debbie said.

In 2010, Chris was finally admitted into the Garden Village, a local nursing home in Yakima. It was around then that Debbie and her family became advocates of the disease and began to spread awareness around the state. Debbie became heavily involved with fundraising efforts, planning committees and events around the state.

Chris died last year, but Debbie's struggles with his disease propelled her passion to help write Washington's Alzheimer's plan. The state plan strives to help those with the disease and their families who take care of them.

"I'm out here trying to help gain awareness because were not gonna get a cure until more people are aware and willing to fight and speak up," said Debbie.

There is no cure for Alzheimer's, but Debbie wants all Alzheimer's patients and their families to know that life does not end when they get diagnosed. She wants everyone impacted by this disease to go out, make memories, take lots of pictures and have fun.

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