Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Below is a blog focused on Alzheimer’s disease and is guest written by AzHHA Vice President of Care Improvement, Sandy Severson. She gives us facts and tools for facilitating a conversation that many of us would steer clear from during the holidays.

An estimated 5.7 million people in the US have Alzheimer’s disease and while many of us have heard Alzheimer’s incidence is on the raise, few of us realize it is the 6th leading cause of death in the country. The 2018 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report shows a 42.9 percent increase in Alzheimer’s cases in our state by 2025. From KTAR-News in Phoenix:

The latest report from the Alzheimer’s Association said Arizona has the second-highest growth rate for Alzheimer’s diagnoses in the country.

“There are currently 140,000 people living with the disease in our state,” Katie Skvarce, the communications director for the association’s Desert Southwest chapter, said. 

“That number is expected to grow by nearly 43 percent in the next seven years.”

That would put the number of Alzheimer’s cases in Arizona at more than 200,000 people. Alzheimer’s causes problems with memory, spatial tasks and other things.

Although there is no cure, there are medications that can slow down the progression of symptoms if started early, so early diagnosis and treatment are important. Because Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, the holidays are a convenient time to note when older family members you don’t see often may start showing symptoms of memory loss, trouble planning and problem solving, confusion with time or place, misplacing things and inability to retrace steps, and mood and personality changes.

As symptoms get worse over time, people become unaware of their environment, not being able to carry on a conversation and inability to accomplish daily tasks of living. Once symptoms are recognized and there is a diagnosis, the person usually lives an average of eight years, but can survive for as many as 20 years depending on other health issues. The good news is that Congress has recently quadrupled Alzheimer’s and dementia research funding at the National Institutes of Health, as well as improving the access to care and support services.

Because Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, we encourage those with early symptoms and diagnosis to talk to their families and document their treatment wishes in a healthcare directive while they still have decision making capacity. The Thoughtful Live Conversations program supports early advance care planning as a gift you give yourself and your family. It is about doing what you can to ensure that your wishes and preferences are consistent with the healthcare treatment you might receive if you were unable to speak for yourself or make your own decisions.

During this holiday season, take the time to have a conversation with your family about their wishes. Knowing the prevalence of Alzheimer’s and the ability for us to have our healthcare wishes honored is a powerful combination, but only if we take the time to share with our loved ones.

For information, contact Alzheimer’s Association: https://www.alz.org/dsw For more information about Thoughtful Life Conversations, our advance care planning resources and classes contact sseverson@azhha.org.

 

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