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Senior news

October 12, 2016
Westfield Republican

October is a month filled with commemorations which bring awareness to issues that plague our society. The most notable are Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence. While these are worthy causes, the Office for the Aging is highlighting an issue that is particularly important to older adults Alzheimer's Disease. "Walks to End Alzheimer's" and dementia are being held throughout the month of October to raise money for research and raise awareness of the impact and burden of memory loss. On October 1, the OFA staff and I met at Point Gratiot Park in Dunkirk along with over 400 others to participate in our county-wide event organized by the WNY Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability that is severe enough to interfere with daily life and independent functioning. Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia. People need to understand that Alzheimer's and dementia is not part of normal aging. However it does appear that dementia is on the rise and it may affect as many as 1 in 3 people in their lifetime. "Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells. This damage interferes with the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other. When brain cells cannot communicate normally, thinking, behavior and feelings can be affected." (alz.org).

Different types of dementia are associated with brain cell damage in particular regions of the brain. Alzheimer's disease deposits proteins inside and outside brain cells that interfere with cell communication and a person's ability to think. Alzheimer's tends to attack the region of the brain called the hippocampus first. This is the center of learning and memory in the brain and that's why memory loss is often one of the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer's.

Newest research on Alzheimer's and dementia suggest that there is not one cause for the disease and that controlling chronic health conditions especially diabetes, heart, circulation and breathing problems may prevent brain cell damage that leads to dementia. Physical Exercise and challenging your brain through learning is also important to brain health and preventing dementia. While there is no way to reverse the brain damage that happens due to dementia, there are conditions that can mimic dementia including medication side-effects, depression, excessive alcohol use, thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies. It's important to see your primary care physician often if you have a chronic condition and to let her know if you are experiencing any of the 10 signs of dementia. These include 1) Memory loss that disrupts daily life, 2) Challenges in planning or problem solving, 3) Difficulty completing familiar tasks, 4) Confusion with time or place, 5) Trouble understanding visual images or spatial relationships, 6) New problems with finding the right word or calling something by the wrong name, 7) Misplacing things and an inability to retrace steps, 8) Decreased or poor judgement, 9) Withdrawal from work or leisure activities, and 10) Changes in mood and personality. While the medications used to treat Alzheimer's and dementia are not a cure, they can slow the progression of the disease so early diagnosis and treatment is extremely important.

In 2016, the Offices for the Aging throughout western NY, Catholic Charities, and the WNY chapter of the Alzheimer's Association were awarded a new grant to help support people with Alzheimer's and their caregivers. Social workers in each county OFA office provide training for caregivers and care consultation for families dealing with the disease. In addition, social workers help navigate local community resources that can decrease burden and stress on families dealing with the disease. Several universities across New York, including the University of Buffalo, have been awarded a similar grant to help train local primary care providers on the latest methods surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of dementia. They can also provide neurologic consultations to more accurately diagnose and advise people on medical treatment options. The important thing to remember is if you are experiences problems with thinking and memory don't wait. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to delaying the effects of the disease.

If you want to support the Chautauqua County Office for the Aging in our fight to End Alzheimer's Disease, you can still go on line to donate anytime during the month of October. For information on the disease or the Walk to End Alzheimer's, visit www.alz.org. For information on local programs that support people with dementia and their caregiver's or to make an appointment with the OFA social worker, contact the NY Connects Helpline at (716)753-4582, 363-4582, or 661-7582. Remember we are here to help you!

 
 
 

 

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