FONDA — As June is Alzheimers and brain awareness month and it being the last week of June, Montgomery County hosted a Lunch and Learn for county employees to be educated on Alzheimer’s.
There to give a presentation on the subject was Meagan DeMento, the program manager of the Alzheimer’s Association for Fulton, Montgomery and Schenectady counties.
DeMento provided information on Alzheimers and the different types of dementias; causes and risk factors; stages of the disease; treating the disease; how it affects the brain; and the signs and symptoms of Alzheimers.
Laurel Headwell, supervising public health nurse, said “knowledge is power.”
“I think we have to be aware of dementia and Alzheimers to know if you see someone out with a winter coat on when it’s 90 degrees, know what to look for, who to contact for help,” Headwell said. “It affects each and everyone of us. Somewhere, some point in your life you will run into someone who has Alzheimers or dementia, whether it be a grandparent, your own parent, your friend’s parents or grandparents, or someone you work alongside with, so it’s nice to now and bring awareness to something.”
DeMento began her presentation reading “The Experience of Dementia as a Journey”, which was written by someone with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregiver.
“Everything in that story depicts some form of stage in Alzheimer’s disease or dementia,” Demento said.
The 10 signs of Alzheimer’s disease are: memory loss that disrupts daily life; challenges in planning or solving problems; difficulty completing familiar tasks; confusion with the time or place; trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships; new problems with words in speaking or writing; misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps; deceased or poor judgment; withdrawal from work or social activities; and changes in mood and personality.
DeMento said Alzheimers is one form of dementia. Other common forms of dementia include frontotemporal dementia (FTD), Lewy Body Dementia and mixed dementia.
The causes and risk factors of the Alzheimer’s disease are age, family history and genetics.
“Age is the number one risk factor,” DeMento said. “We are finding people being diagnosed younger and younger. Before the age 65 it is considered younger onset Alzheimers. After the age 65 it is considered late onset Alzheimers. However anyone over the age of 65 has a 10 percent chance of developing Alzheimers, anyone over the age of 85 has a 50 percent chance, but I have a positive note about that. If you hit 95 and you’re not diagnosed or you haven’t developed it yet, you’re good to go because it does reduce your risk after you hit 95.”
There are three stages to the Alzheimer’s disease which are the early stages, middle stages and late stages.
In the early stage, people will have problems coming up with the right word or name; trouble remembering names when introduced to new people; challenges performing tasks in social or work settings; forgetting material that was just read; losing or misplacing a valuable object and increasing trouble with planning or organizing.
The middle stage is typically the longest stage and can last from five to eight years. During the middle state someone will have forgetfulness of events or about one’s own personal history; feeling moody or withdrawn; unable to recall address or phone numbers; confusion about where they are or what day it is; help choosing proper clothing for the season or occasion; trouble controlling bladder; changes in sleep patterns; increased risk of wandering; and personality and behavioral changes.
In the late-stage of Alzheimers someone may need around-the-clock care; the lose awareness of recent experiences; experience changes in physical abilities; greater difficulty communicating; and increasingly vulnerable to infections.
DeMento said some ways to help are by getting educated on the disease and spreading awareness. There is a program called TrialMatch that is a clinical trial directory that helps both people with the disease and caregivers. There is also the Project Lifesaver program through the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office for anyone with a developmental disability who may wander and provides a tracking device for those people. And for caregivers — if they are ever in an accident outside their home — there are bracelets that lets first responders know they have someone at home who they are caring for at home and need to be checked on
“Don’t be afraid to reach out,” DeMento said. “Alzheimers is not a normal part of aging.”