With the senior demographic rapidly growing, so is the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.
The Union County Advanced Technology Center hosted an educational program Friday morning featuring information about dementia; causes, stages of disease, treatment and how to cope.
The presentation was led by Joyce Finkle — the Alzheimer’s Association Spartanburg area program director.
Finkle explained that dementia is an umbrella term covering many types: reversible dementias, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, Lewy body disease and the most common, Alzheimer’s disease. Over 70 percent of people with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease.
Finkle also explained that dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning serious enough to interfere with daily functioning, causing changes in memory, language, thought, navigation, behavior, personality/mood and planning/organization. She explained the difference between typical age-related changes and problematic changes which are symptoms of dementia.
Typical age-related changes involve: making a bad decision once in awhile missing an occasional monthly payment forgetting which day it is and remembering later sometimes forgetting which word to use losing things from time to time
Problematic changes involve: memory changes that disrupt daily life challenges in planning or solving problems difficulty completing familiar tasks confusion with time or place trouble with visual images and spatial relationships new problems with words in speaking or writing misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps decreased or poor judgment withdrawal from work or social activities changes in mood and personality
Some dementia-type symptoms can be caused by other factors such as thyroid problems or reactions to medication. Some types of dementia are reversible, but not Alzheimer’s disease, which affects 5.4 million Americans. There is still no cure for Alzheimer’s, and it is progressive.
“Once it starts, there’s no stopping it,” Finkle said, explaining why research of the disease is so important.
Finkle also said if no cure is found by 2015, Alzheimer’s disease is expected to affect 16 million Americans due to the aging baby boomer generation.
Finkle also mentioned that Downs syndrome is correlated with Alzheimer’s, as well as head injuries. Downs syndrome patients are now living longer than in the past, and doctors are finding them susceptible to Alzheimer’s. She also mentioned the publicity the NFL received last year due to the number of players who suffered from dementia due to head injuries.
The importance of preparing for doctor’s visits was also covered. Patients are advised to keep a symptom log, writing a specific list of symptoms including when, where and how often they occur. Finkle said it is a good idea to develop this list with input from other family members. Patients should also list current and previous health problems and bring all medications (prescriptions, vitamins, herbal supplements and over-the-counter medication) with them to a doctor’s visit.
Finkle announced that the 2011 Walk to End Alzheimer’s will be held Sept. 17 at Wofford College. She urged those present to consider starting a team and/or fund raising efforts. There are currently no teams registered from Union County.
Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the nation’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Since 1989, the walk (accommodating all ages and abilities) has mobilized millions to join the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, raising more than $347 million for the cause. Events are held annually in the fall in nearly 600 communities nationwide.
All Walk to End Alzheimer’s donations benefit the Alzheimer’s Association, the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. The mission of the Alzheimer’s Association is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.
The Alzheimer’s Association offers a nationwide 24-hour helpline — available at 1-800-272-3900 — for those who need information or just want to talk. The association also offers evidence-based content on its website at www.alz.org.