Community promoting Alzheimer’s awarenessIn preparation for September’s World Alzheimer’s Month, a series of community presentations about the disease that currently affects 5.4 million Americans will be held locally beginning Wednesday.
By: Brian Willhide, The Jamestown Sun
In preparation for September’s World Alzheimer’s Month, a series of community presentations about the disease that currently affects 5.4 million Americans will be held locally beginning Wednesday.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia — a serious loss of cognitive abilities beyond normal aging — and it is has no known cure. The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering newly learned information and it usually progresses to more advanced symptoms such as disorientation, serious memory loss and behavioral changes, among others.
Region 6 Regional Care Consultant Beth Olson, who will be conducting the presentations, provides community education and consultation services for nine North Dakota counties — Wells, Foster, Griggs, Stutsman, Barnes, Logan, LaMoure, McIntosh and Dickey — on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association of Minnesota/North Dakota.
Olson’s series of presentations are titled “Know the 10 Signs,” “Understanding Memory Loss” and “The Basics of Alzheimer’s Disease.”
“The biggest thing with these classes and presentations is just the idea of more awareness about the disease, especially early detection,” Olson said. “This is an ongoing series for us and all three of the offerings are very general community classes.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association website, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Most recent statistics from 2008 indicate that more than 79,000 Americans died from the disease that year — 312 of which were North Dakotans.
“It’s something that is affecting our nation so much that, at a national level, we’re looking to develop a plan to develop a cure for the disease by 2025,” Olson said.
She said money from the federal level will be crucial for advancing such a plan.
As for the presentations themselves, Olson’s “Know the 10 Signs” will be at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the James River Senior and Community Center, 510 10th Ave SE.
“Here we’ll talk about the typical age-related changes, signs that you should look further into and just a little more in depth about signs of the onset of the disease,” she said.
That presentation will also be given again at the Valley City Health Education Center at 2 and 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 19.
Olson’s “The Basics of Alzheimer’s Disease” presentation will be held at the Kulm Senior Center at 12:15 p.m. on Aug. 22 and at the Edgeley Senior Center at 12:30 p.m. on Aug. 29.
‘“The Basics’ is a little more about the disease itself and more of an explanation of dementia in general. It will also include tips about where Alzheimer’s stems from and what to expect throughout the duration of the disease,” she said.
Olson will return to the JRSCC at 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 12 for her presentation “Understanding Memory Loss.”
“This one is about knowing the difference between the terms ‘dementia’ and ‘Alzheimer’s disease,’ as well as knowing where to find help and resources for families and persons with dementia,” she said.
There is no fee for any of Olson’s presentations and she said her care consultation services, which provide families with an assessment of needs, development of a memory loss care plan and referral to resources is free also.
Although commonly associated with the elderly, Olson said Alzheimer’s is something for people of all ages to be aware of. About 5 percent of people with the disease have early onset Alzheimer’s, which Olson said often appears when someone is in their 40s or 50s.
“Beyond the disease itself, it’s difficult financially for people at that age because they’re usually still working,” she said. “Plus you consider at that age that many of those people have young families where children and teens are grieving and watching the effects of the disease of a parent that is still at a young age.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association website, although current Alzheimer’s treatments cannot stop the disease from progressing, they can temporarily slow symptoms of dementia in addition to improving the quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients. Those with Alzheimer’s live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others, but survival ranges anywhere from four to 20 years depending on age and other health conditions.
Olson encourages promoting disease awareness by participating in one of four North Dakota walks in the second and third weeks of September.
Grand Forks and Dickinson will host walks on Sept. 8 with Bismarck and Fargo hosting walks on Sept. 15.
For more information about Alzheimer’s and/or the Alzheimer’s Association of Minnesota/North Dakota, visit www.alz.org/mnnd or call Beth Olson at the Jamestown office at 701-952-0800.
The Jamestown office is located at 114 First Ave. S in Suite 160.
Sun reporter Brian Willhide can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org