By David Esteppe
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, over 15 million Americans are currently in the trenches of providing support for those with Alzheimer’s disease.
On Monday, Alzheimer’s Association representatives Heather Williams and Kim Thompson spoke to the Lewisburg Rotary Club. They delivered a presentation full of information about the disease and invited the public to an Alzheimer’s Association support group, which is held on the first Tuesday each month at 5 p.m. inside The Seasons’ assisted living facility on Holt Lane in Lewisburg.
Alois Alzheimer first described the disease in 1906 when life expectancy was only 50 years; therefore few people reached the age of greatest risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. The disease was thus considered to be rare and attracted little scientific interest. Today life expectancy is over 78 years and more than five million people are living with the disease. These people make up over 60 percent of all of the total dementia diagnoses. Dementia is the general term for the loss of memory and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life, and about 40 percent of people with dementia do not have Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists believe that Alzheimer’s disease prevents the brain’s 100 billion nerve cells from working well. The brains of Alzheimer’s individuals have an abundance of plaques and tangles. The plaques are deposits in the spaces between nerve cells of a protein fragment called beta-amyloid. The tangles are twisted fibers of another protein called tau which builds up inside nerve cells. Most experts believe that these proteins disable or block communication among nerve cells and disrupt the processes the cells need to survive. The destruction and death of these nerve cells cause memory failure, personality changes, problems in carrying out daily activities and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
The support group at The Seasons is specifically for the caregiver, and not for people who have the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. There is reliable information and support available for people living with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. For information by phone call 1-800-272-3900. There is an “I Have Alzheimer’s Disease” website: www.alz.org/IhaveAlz.
The West Virginia chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association offers many free community workshops for all things Alzheimer’s. The website for this information is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.