Families Facing Early Memory Loss are Not Alone
One of the questions that I receive most frequently goes
something like this: why are there so many more people being diagnosed with
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other dementias today compared to two or three
generations ago? The simple answer is
that more of us are living longer today than ever before and age is the number
one risk factor for developing dementia.
In fact, about 40% of individuals over the age of 80 have some form of
cognitive impairment and if you haven’t heard, those living past 85 is one of
the fastest growing populations in the United States.
There’s also a secondary reason for an increase in the diagnosis of dementia. The assessment tools available to diagnose a broad spectrum of cognitive impairment are more accurate now than they were 20 or 30 years ago. Because AD is the most feared disease amongst adults over the age of 55, individuals who experience memory challenges may be more likely to check in with a health care professional to determine the cause and hopefully rule out a progressive neurodegenerative disorder like AD. This, along with an increase in public awareness of strategies to promote prevention of neurodegenerative disorders, the number of individuals diagnosed in the early stages of AD and other dementias has increased significantly.
Receiving a diagnosis of AD or another dementia can be
debilitating for both patient and family.
Fear of the unknown and what will happen next is a common source of
stress. Additionally, families are often
uninformed about the causes and types of dementia, how they progress and what
to expect at each stage, how to plan for long term care, and where to find
support in the community. Taken together, this lack of information and support may
exact an excessive emotional toll on all involved. Gratefully, I may have some solutions for
For residents of the South Bay and other communities in Southern California, people living early memory loss have access to community-based programs specifically designed to instill hope, build community, and provide access to expert information all in an effort towards living one’s best life.
This program, sponsored by Alzheimer’s Los Angeles, Beach
Cities Health District, and Always Best Care South Bay, is made up of a select group
of peers who are experiencing early memory loss and their families. The group meets
for six to eight consecutive weeks and offers participants the skills and
support needed to tackle the daily challenges related to cognitive impairment
and memory loss. Each week includes an
interactive educational presentation on a relevant topic including:
to expect as the disease progresses
options and clinical trials
and exercise programming
happiness and purpose
to community resources
for strengthening working and short term memory
to effectively manage stress and adapt to adversity
The presentations are immediately followed by two parallel support groups: one for folks with memory challenges and other for family care partners. The support group format provides each collaborative the opportunity to share their stories, problem solve, and gain emotional support in a safe environment with others who are facing similar challenges. Nearly 98% of past participants agree or strongly agree that what was learned in
Applications to participate in the upcoming six-week session tentatively scheduled for Thursday, March 28th and running through Thursday, May 4th are now being accepted. The program is generously sponsored and free of charge. For more information, please email [email protected] or call (310) 792-8666 and ask for Dr. Hart.
Hosted by Alzheimer’s Los Angeles, the conference is a day-long program providing support, education, and resources for caregivers, families, and individuals facing early memory loss. The event is scheduled for Saturday, April 6th from 9a-3p at the Torrance Memorial Hoffman Health Conference Center. General admission is $20 and limited scholarships are available. You may register online at www.alzheimersla.org.
Lastly, and not to overwhelm you by any means, I am
facilitating an individual workshop I’m calling: Adapting to Adversity: Building Resilience as a Foundation for Aging
Well on Tuesday, March 19th from 530p-7p at the Redondo Beach
Main Library. We will discuss the
science and healing properties of resilience, how to cultivate it, and how to
enact it too. This program is offered at
no cost to attendees.
Until next time, be well.