As America grays, many of us dread the prospect that we or someone we love will contract Alzheimer's Disease, a degenerative and incurable condition that slowly robs people of memory and the ability to think or reason.
This is not an unreasonable fear.
"Alzheimer's Disease is the most common form of dementia among our seniors, affecting nearly 5.4 million Americans; therefore it is important that we raise awareness and understanding of this devastating disease," according to Minden Medical Center Senior Care Program Director Carey Ouzts.
While living in fear or ignoring the signs of onset, while understandable, is the wrong way to approach a possible diagnosis. Even though there is no cure for Alzheimer's, early detection can make living with the disease easier for everyone – the person who has been diagnosed and the people who care about him or her.
"Early diagnosis means the patient can receive maximum benefit from existing treatments that provide symptom relief and slow the disease's progress," said Dr. Keith Kessel, Minden Medical Center's Geriatric Psychiatrist. "And the earlier someone is diagnosed the more likely he or she will be able to participate in planning for the future and making decisions about care, transportation, living options, and legal matters."
As part of Alzheimer's Awareness month, Minden Medical Center Senior Care is hosting a series of events designed to provide education, support, and community awareness regarding this progressive brain disease.
The Senior Care Alzheimer's Support Group is a free monthly support group held the second Thursday of each month at 4 p.m. on Senior Care for those caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's Disease.
"We invite the public to join us at this heartfelt ceremony in lighting a candle in honor or in memory of a loved one" Ouzts said.
To complete the month long awareness initiative, Senior Care will sponsor a free lunch and learn entitled "Perspectives on Alzheimer's Disease" on November 28 from noon to 1 p.m. at the Webster Parish Library Stewart Center.
This educational seminar will provide information to assist in understanding this devastating disease. Those interested are invited to RSVP as seating is limited.
Though there is currently no cure for Alzheimer's disease, greater understanding and awareness of this disease can help those with early warning signs to seek treatment sooner, understand resources, and plan for the future.
"At Senior Care, we provide inpatient treatment for individuals struggling with Alzheimer's dementia and related illnesses, behavioral disorders, and emotional disorders," Ouzts said. "We also strive to provide informative programs and events such as this to enhance the communities understanding of these disorders affecting our elderly population. We are pleased to help bring greater awareness to Alzheimer's disease."
To increase early detection, Senior Care encourages people to become familiar with and watch for the Alzheimer Association's 10 Warning Signs.
If you recognize any of these signs in an aging loved one or yourself, see your doctor immediately.
Memory loss that disrupts daily life. One of the most common signs of Alzheimer's is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events, asking for the same information repeatedly, and increasingly relying on memory aides or family members to remember things once easily recalled.
Challenges in planning or solving problems. Those experiencing the first signs of Alzheimer's may begin to lose the ability to follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. Concentrating may be difficult, and it may take them much longer to do things than it did before.
Difficulty completing daily tasks. People with Alzheimer's often find it hard to complete familiar tasks at home or work. They may get lost driving to a familiar location, or forget how to manage a budget or follow the rules of a favorite game.
Confusion with time or place. Another sign of Alzheimer's is losing track of dates, seasons and the passage of time, having trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately, or forgetting where they are or how they got there.
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. For some people, vision problems are a sign of Alzheimer's. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving.
New problems speaking or writing words. People with Alzheimer's often have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation with no idea how to continue, repeat themselves, struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word, or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a watch a hand-clock).
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. Another early sign is putting things in unusual places and being unable to go back over their steps to find things they've lost. Sometimes, they may even accuse others of stealing their things.
Decreased or poor judgment. Look out for changes in decision-making. For example, people with Alzheimer's may start giving large amounts of money to telemarketers. Or they may pay less attention to grooming and keeping themselves clean.
Withdrawal from work or social activities. Those with Alzheimer's may start to withdraw from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports as they lose the ability to succeed in them because of the symptoms they're experiencing.
Changes in mood and personality. Common changes include becoming confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, anxious, or easily upset.