Alzheimer’s and the aging brain: Local support offers variety of help
Special to The Union
Signs of Alzheimer’s and/or dementia
Poor judgment and decision making
Inability to manage a budget
Losing track of the date or the season
Forgetting the intended destination while driving
Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them
Healthy memory changes
Making a bad decision once in a while
Missing a monthly payment
Forgetting which day it is and remembering later
Sometimes forgetting which word to use
Losing things from time to time
The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that about 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia that affects one in every three seniors. By 2050, that number is projected to double to 14 million, making it one of the leading causes of death in the United States.
June is National Alzheimer’s Disease and Brain Awareness Month, a time to better understand these conditions. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can include a variety of conditions caused by or associated with damage of brain tissue resulting in impaired cognitive function and confusion.
People affected by Alzheimer’s or dementia often experience impaired intellectual capacity with loss of memory and the ability to reason. In advanced cases, the person may have problems with speech, personality, mood and behavior.
The cause of any confusion and cognitive problems must be determined so the proper diagnosis and treatment can be started. However, it can be difficult knowing whether an age-related memory change is normal or a sign of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, a good rule of thumb is that memory loss that disrupts daily life is not a typical part of aging. A common early sign of Alzheimer’s, especially in the early stages, is forgetting recently learned information.
Other signs include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; relying on memory aides (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.
Other warning signs include difficulty planning or solving problems, difficulty completing familiar tasks, confusion with time or place, trouble understanding visual imaging and spatial concepts, misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps, and withdrawal from work or social activities. and changes in mood and personality.
Experts agree that the best defense against a disease like Alzheimer’s or dementia is education and early detection. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that a skilled physician can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease with more than 90 percent accuracy.
Once diagnosed, individuals are able to access treatment options, participate in clinical trials, prioritize their health and have important time to discuss future plans with family members.
Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation’s Alzheimer’s Outreach Program (AOP) offers free local resources aimed at helping individuals and their loved ones feel safe and comfortable during the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment stages.
AOP offers support to any individual or caregiver suffering from memory impairment. There are primarily two components to AOP: educational and clinical.
The educational side of the program works toward providing educational opportunities for the community to become more informed about Alzheimer’s/Related dementias. AOP provides free biannual “Yes I Can” and “Remember Me” class series on caregiver empowerment and support.
The program also collaborates with the Alzheimer’s Association to educate the community. In addition, SNMH Foundation, through AOP, provides focused educational outreach and classes for professionals such as hospital staff and local law enforcement.
The clinical side of AOP provides free in-home or on-the-phone assessments of need. The assessments (performed by a social worker) look at the whole picture from a biological, sociological and psychological standpoint in an attempt to intervene and address concerns and issues, including caregiver support; short- and long-term planning help; education to help manage behaviors; and connection to a variety of resources to support those who are diagnosed, as well as their caregivers and loved ones.
For more information on Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation’s Alzheimer’s Outreach Program, please call 530-274-6007, extension 5595 or visit http://www.supportsierranevada.org/aop.
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