Let’s Talk About Alzheimer’s Disease

By: Dr. Nancy Yoon at Springfield-Greene County Health

Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease and Brain Awareness Month kicked off June 1 to shed a light on the disease and other types of dementia impacting people around the country. Alzheimer’s is a disease which affects the mind and causes issues with memory, thinking and behavior. A known risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease is increasing age, with a majority of people who have Alzheimer’s being 65 and older. However, younger people can have it too. This is called Younger-onset Alzheimer’s Disease (or commonly known as early onset) which can impact individuals under 65.

Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death among US adults, and the 5th leading cause of death among adults aged 65 years or older. In 2020, an estimated 5.8 million Americans aged 65 years or older had Alzheimer’s disease. This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.

Many people are unsure of the difference between Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. While Alzheimer’s Disease refers to a specific brain disease, dementia is a general term for declining mental ability that interferes with daily life. Different types of dementia exist, and Alzheimer’s Disease is one of them. While Alzheimer’s Disease makes up about 60–80% of dementia cases, other dementias include Vascular dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, and Lewy body dementia.

Nearly 16% of the Springfield population is over the age of 65, putting them within the age bracket of late-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s important to look for early signs (or Mild Alzheimer’s Disease) in our loved ones so that they can receive the necessary care.

While there is no current cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, the fight to find one is ongoing and has seen significant progress. There are available treatments that may be able to help change disease progression and help your loved one live a longer life. Treatment addresses helping people maintain their brain health, manage behavioral symptoms and slow or delay symptoms of the disease. There is also research being done on whether Alzheimer’s Disease can be prevented.

In addition to treatment, diagnostic advances are being made, too. Getting a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease often means that the disease has already caused severe brain damage due to the diagnostic process relying heavily on documenting mental decline. However, experts are looking into biological markers or “biomarkers,” to find evidence of the disease earlier which can make treatment more effective.

Here are a few of what the Alzheimer’s Association identifies common difficulties in Early-stage Alzheimer’s Disease:

· Coming up with the right word or name

· Remembering names when introduced to new people

· Having difficulty performing tasks in social or work settings

For a full list of symptoms, check out https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/stages.

If you think you or a loved one could have Alzheimer’s disease, get checked by your healthcare provider to help determine whether there may be other treatable causes of the concerning symptoms. Early and accurate diagnosis will help you and your family consider financial planning, develop advance directives, get information about clinical trials, and anticipate care needs.

Support in Springfield and the Region

Taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease can be hard. Family caregivers of people of dementia have been called the “invisible second patient”. The strain of being so critical to the quality of life of your loved one can be heavy. However, attending support groups and finding empowerment opportunities for your loved one who has gotten an Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosis may be helpful.

June 21 is recognized as The Longest Day when we raise awareness for Alzheimer’s Disease and the efforts to find a cure. You can find more information on how to participate by going to alz.org.

View resources in Spanish here: https://www.alz.org/alzheimer-demencia/que-es-la-enfermedad-de-alzheimer

Below is a list of local, regional, and virtual Alzheimer’s Disease support opportunities for you and your loved ones:

SeniorAge Dementia Caregiver Support Group

  • 3rd Tuesday of each month at 6:00pm (In-Person)
  • SeniorAge Fort Building, 1735 S Fort Ave, Springfield, MO 65807
  • OR 3rd Tuesday of each month at 4:45pm (Virtual)
  • Meeting ID: 87103255675
  • Passcode: 888031
  • By phone: 1–929–205–6099
  • Passcode: 888031
  • Contact Mark Applegate: mark.applegate@senioragemo.org

Springhouse Village Support Group

  • 1st Tuesday of each month (In-person)
  • 1:00 p.m
  • Springhouse Village, in the Memory Care unit, located at 3877 East Farm Road 132, Springfield, MO 65802.
  • Contact is Alex Miller: 417–708–3403

This Support Group offers snacks as well as a separate group activity for the loved ones with Alzheimer’s and Dementia to attend so their Caregiver can participate.

Mid-Missouri Caregiver Support Group

Truman VA Caregiver Support Group

Visit www.alz.org/greatermissouri to learn more about caregiver programs and resources.

Education Workshops

Healthy Living for the Brain and Body

  • Monday, July 18th (In-Person)
  • Northview Community Center
  • 305 E Talmage St, Springfield, MO 65803
  • Contact Brittany Fletcher: blfletcher@alz.org

Upcoming Events

June 21st is The Longest Day event.

The longest day of the year is June 21st. This is the day with the most light — the summer solstice. On this day thousands of participants from across the world come together to fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s.

September 24th is the 2022 Walk to End Alzheimer’s event.

Location: Jordan Valley Park, Springfield, MO

Contact is Samantha Whittaker: slwhittaker@alz.org

Find out more about these and other great events at www.alz.org

Sources:

Alz.org

CDC: Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias: https://www.cdc.gov/aging/aginginfo/alzheimers.htm#known

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