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NHCC gives recognition to National Alzheimer's Awareness Month

The month of November is recognized as National Alzheimer's Awareness Month. Alzheimer's is a brain disease that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 50 to 70 percent of dementia cases.

The 10 warning signs of Alzheimer's include: memory loss that disrupts daily life, challenges in planning or solving problems, difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure, confusion with 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, decreased or poor judgment, withdrawal from work or social activities and lastly changes in mood and personality.

Although the greatest known risk factor is increasing age, Alzheimer's is not a normal part of aging and the majority of people with Alzheimer's are 65 years of age and older.

Alzheimer's worsens over time. Alzheimer's is a progressive disease, where symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer's, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment.

Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Those with Alzheimer's live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others but survival can range from three to 20 years, depending on age and other health conditions.

Some diseases that cause dementia include Alzheimer's Disease, Vascular Dementia, Parkinson's Disease, Huntington's Disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, Pick's Disease and Lewy Body Dementia.

Alzheimer's currently has no cure, but treatments for symptoms are available and research continues. Although existing Alzheimer treatments cannot stop Alzheimer's from progressing, they can temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms and improve quality of life for those with Alzheimer's and their caregivers. Today, there is a worldwide effort under way to find better ways to treat the disease, delay its onset and prevent it from developing.

Some ways that family and friends can make a difference in relating to a loved one with dementia is to accept the memory loss; don't think that if the person tried harder he or she would remember.

Break directions down into simple steps and offer only one at a time. Respect the reality in which the loved one is living and the emotions he or she is expressing. Never stop trying to communicate with the person with dementia. Realize the importance of one-to-one interactions.

Be aware of the individuals' fears and discomfort. Discover remaining strengths and give the person plenty of chances to use them. Recognize the physiological cause (brain damage) behind the emotions expressed. Lastly, don't pass judgment. Be patient and understanding.

The 24/7 Information Helpline is 1-800-272-3900. Additional information, support, printed materials and referrals to area resources are available.

(Information supplied by the Alzheimer's Association)