(Reprinted from Carolina Peacemakers)
Yasmine Regester, Staff Writer | 12/16/2013, 4:10 p.m.
In 2012, 15.4 million family and friends provided billions ofhours of unpaid care to those with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Caregivers, community members and healthcare providers of individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease gathered for the 5th Annual Caregiver’s Education Conference at North Carolina A&T State University this past Saturday, Dec. 7. The event was sponsored by the university’s Center for Outreach in Alzheimer’s, Aging and Community Health (COAACH),a community resource that promotes the science of healthy aging through research, education and empowerment.
Caregivers received information on the disease, resources for support and were able to take a break to share experiences with one another, one thing keynote speaker Dr. Laura Baker, stressed to caregivers.
“It’s so important for family to take a break sometimes. Stress is one factor that puts a person at higher risk for Alzheimer’s. You can’t be the best caregiver if you are not healthy,” said Baker, associate professor in the Section on Gerontology and Geriatrics Center for Bio-Molecular Imaging at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
As the most common form of “dementia” or the onset of severe memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease destroys parts of the brain that control memory, thinking, language and judgment. Baker also told caregivers to be understanding of why someone has a loss of interest in a hobby or activity they once enjoyed. “It could be because they cannot remember how to do it, and they are embarrassed to admit that. If we can understand that more, then we can help them more,” she stated.
She also noted that it is common for there to be a slight decline in memory as people age. Things such as not remembering phone numbers, or forgetting a person’s name is normal and nothing to be worried about.
“It’s normal to get a little confused when multitasking or not being able to recall simple information when you need it, ”said Baker.
Symptoms such as feeling confused or “lost”, having trouble completing daily tasks they have done for years, or repeating oneself frequently is not normal and one should see a doctor. Other tips given to caregivers were to keep their loved ones active, do not let them isolate themselves. Scott Herrick, director of public policy for the Alzheimer’s Association Western chapter, shared a personal story of his father’s battle with Alzheimer’s.
“Some people fall into a financial gap where they cannot afford long-term placement. Get a care team in place if you are caring for a loved one in your home. Don’t let them self-isolate. Keep that person out and around people because then the care outcome is so much better,” said Herrick.
Statistics show that African Americans are twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes as their Caucasian counterparts, which puts them at higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Baker said, “From what I see, exercise is good and helps reduce risk, and improves memory skills for people with mild cognitive impairment. If diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease is linked, then we have to do something about how we move our bodies. Exercise is important for the body and the mind. ”Researchers with The African Americans and Alzheimer’s Disease Genetic Research Study at A&T are hoping to find a genetic link between the disease and its alarming rate in African Americans.
This research study being led by A&T will be the first and largest study of Alzheimer’s disease among African Americans. A&T’s research study has more than 2,000 participants so far. “There is a lot of work to still be done. African Americans have this disease twice as much as other ethnicities,” said Goldie S. Byrd, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Principal Investigator of the African American Alzheimer’s Research Study. “People are becoming much more interested in learning how this is taking place. At A&T, we want to do more to help people of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds. ”Recruitment for the study is still taking place for African American men and women, 60 years of age or older.
A&T’s College of Arts and Sciences also holds a monthly Alzheimer’s Support Group held on campus every 3rd Monday of the month.
For more information visit www.ncatad.com.