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VOL. 127 | NO. 218 | Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Local Organizations Tout Alzheimer’s Awareness

By MICHAEL WADDELL

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November is Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and several local organizations are ramping up efforts to increase awareness and education for caregivers and loved ones dealing with the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Home Instead Senior Care is rolling out a free program to help caregivers better understand the disease, the Alzheimer’s Association continues its fight for increased awareness with free monthly classes at four area locations and Alzheimer’s Day Services of Memphis Inc. will hold a scavenger hunt fundraiser on Saturday Nov. 10.

Alzheimer’s is the leading irreversible disease that shows the symptoms of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s Mid-South chapter, more than 5.5 million people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the U.S. and an estimated 800,000 individuals (more than one in seven) live alone. By 2050 up to 16 million will have the disease.

“By the year 2025 we are anticipating more than 150,000 people will be diagnosed in Tennessee over the age of 65,” said Susan Howe Crowson, director of programs and advocacy for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Mid-South chapter. “And for every individual diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, there are approximately three other individuals who are unpaid caregivers affiliated with them, including family, friends, loved ones and congregational care. We want to provide education and awareness that the disease is impactful right now, and it will be a national crisis within the next 10 to 25 years if we continue to not address it as a national priority.”

The Alzheimer’s Association is the largest nonprofit organization in the country, with local chapters throughout all 50 states.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the only cause of death among the top 10 without a way to prevent, cure or even slow its progression. Of Americans aged 65 and over, one in eight currently has Alzheimer’s, and nearly half of people aged 85 and older have the disease.

Crowson points out that the financial impact of the cost of Medicare and Medicaid is substantial. Medicare costs for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are three times higher than for those without, and Medicaid spending is 19 times higher.

In 2012 the direct costs of caring for those with Alzheimer’s will total an estimated $200 billion, including $140 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid. By 2050 those costs could rise to nearly $1.1 trillion, according to the association.

In late October, Home Instead Senior Care debuted its Alzheimer’s or Other Dementias CARE: Changing Aging through Research and Education training program, a free class for families and caregivers dealing with seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

The focus of the program is to gather stories and experiences about the senior’s past, tapping into their long-term memory since those with Alzheimer’s disease have difficulty with short-term memory.

“We received fantastic reviews from the caregivers about the application,” said Melissa Bennett client care coordinator at Home Instead Senior Care, which celebrates its 16th year in Memphis this week.

Home Instead held its first certification class at the first of October and then held another test run session with local Alzheimer’s experts later in the month. The first official class in the series of four will be held at the Home Instead’s Memphis office on Dec. 5.

The Memphis franchise employs eight people at its office and works with a staff of more than 200 area caregivers.

“We currently have 10 to 15 clients who have dementia or the beginning stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s,” said Bennett. “We match them up with caregivers that have passed the certification.”

Home Instead provides care for seniors living at home, in assisted-living facilities and in nursing homes.

“We go to our client’s homes with the goal of keeping them there for as long as we can,” Bennett said. “We also work with assisted living facilities and hospitals in the area to provide extra assistance.”

Home Instead is part of a network of 900 locally owned and operated franchises located in all 50 states. Daryl Doane owns the Home Instead franchises in Memphis and Oxford, Miss., and there are also locations in Jackson, Tenn., and Little Rock, Ark.

“Many times, family caregivers just need a break,” said Bennett, who explained that Home Instead can provide care so families can go on vacation, or out shopping or to the spa for a day to get a much needed break from the stresses of being a caregiver.

Due to the physical and emotional toll of caregiving on their own health, Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers had $8.7 billion in additional health care costs in 2011. More than 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high and one-third report symptoms of depression.

To alleviate some of the stress and provide a better understanding of the disease, the Alzheimer Association offers free classes year-round throughout the city. Upcoming class topics include Impact of the Holidays for the Person with Dementia held at Baptist Memorial Hospital’s Memphis Education Center in East Memphis on Nov. 14, followed by Tips for Taking Care of the Caregiver on Dec. 19.

The Alzheimer’s Association’s primary local fundraising event is the annual “Walk to End Alzheimer’s,” which will be held next year on Sept. 14 at Shelby Farms Park. The 2012 event featured 1,090 participants and raised more than $100,000.

On Nov. 10 Alzheimer’s Day Services of Memphis will hold “Fun on the Run: A Scavenger Hunt for Alzheimer’s Day Services” in support of Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.

Crowson hopes Congress will pass the Breakthrough Act, a piece of current legislation that would pave the way for more funding for Alzheimer’s research and the H.O.P.E Act (Health Outcomes Planning and Education) for which Medicare will provide coverage for a package of services, including clinical diagnosis, care planning and caregivers information about medical and non-medical options for treatment and support.

In local Alzheimer’s research news, The University of Tennessee Health Science Center received a $412,500 grant last week for Alzheimer’s disease research. The money will fund a two-year study by Dr. Francesca-Fang Liao to gain further insight into the cause of the disease.

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