Monday Medical: Memory loss may be Alzheimer's

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If you go

What: Making Sense of Memory Loss

When: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Yampa Valley Medical Center, Conference Room 1

Cost: Free

Call: 970-472-9798

A national epidemic is looming, and Coloradoans are expected to be at the top of the list.

The disease is Alzheimer's and it is currently the nation's seventh leading cause of death. One out of eight baby boomers, many of whom are choosing to retire in Colorado, will be stricken. So far, there is no cure.

However, there is hope. Hope that today's research holds promise in the treatment of this irreversible disease. Hope that new medications are on the brink of being released. Hope that there is someone who can help affected individuals, their families and caregivers.

The Alzheimer's Association provides this hope. This national organization, whose Colorado chapter provides seven offices representing every county in the state, has but one vision: a world without Alzheimer's disease. Its work provides funding for research as well as education and support to communities.

On Tuesday, Emmalie Connor, regional director for the Northern Colorado office, will be in Steamboat Springs to present "Making Sense of Memory Loss," one of several classes offered by Colorado's chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

Tomorrow's program will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about Alzheimer's disease such as:

- What is considered normal memory loss, and what is symptomatic of a more serious disorder?

- What is the difference between Alzheimer's and dementia?

- What are the warning signs of Alzheimer's?

- What can I do to keep my brain healthy?

"We hope attendees will leave with either reassurance about the disease or with information that they can take to their health care provider if they have concerns," Connor said.

Memory, as with vision and hearing, decreases with age. Knowing the difference between what is normal and what may be a more serious disorder can play a role in someone's outcome.

"The sooner one is diagnosed, the better," Connor said. "There are medications that can be used to treat symptoms of the disease."

Connor will present the top 10 warning signs of Alzheimer's disease. She wants to help attendees identify the symptoms so they in turn can share this information with family members, co-workers and friends.

"We also want to make sure people know the Alzheimer's Association is here for them," Connor said.

In nearly 30 years of existence, the Alzheimer's Association has become the biggest nonprofit fundraiser for Alzheimer's research, while simultaneously reaching out to the public through community education about this progressive and fatal disease.

The association is poised to meet families' needs in a variety of ways. Its community education programs, such as "Making Sense of Memory Loss," are designed to increase understanding of the stages of the disease.

There are also classes designed to teach effective coping skills. These courses range from six-week programs to single seminars aimed at general or specific audiences. Information about the organization's classes can be found on the Web site www.alz.org.

In addition to the wealth of information and resources on the Web site, the Alzheimer's Association also offers 24-hour support through a hotline, at 1-800-272-3900.

Connor also wants people to know that there are more than 1,200 Alzheimer's support groups statewide. Each group provides support to specific people who are affected by the disease. These include caregivers, family members of Alzheimer's patients and people who have been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's, before the age of 65.

While the association provides so much, it knows it must do more. There are 65,000 Coloradans currently living with the disease, and for each person diagnosed, the lives of three others have changed forever. The Alzheimer's Association feels it has reached only 25,000 families in our state.

In the next 20 years, it is projected that 140,000 more Coloradoans will be diagnosed with Alzheimer's. If you knew today that someone you loved would be one of those affected, wouldn't you want to know more?

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