By David Price
Every 70 seconds someone in America develops Alzheimer’s disease. It is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. One in eight people aged 65 or older have the disease. In Worcester County alone, over 14,000 people have Alzheimer’s or a related dementia.
For Worcester County families dealing with this devastating condition, The Alzheimer’s Association — the largest private funder of research into the causes, treatments and prevention of the disease — provides resources, education and support.
According to its manager, Julie B. McMurray, the central regional office of the Alzheimer’s Association, located in the Worcester Senior Center on Providence Street, is a lifeline for families dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. The Worcester location is one of five offices that make up the Alzheimer’s Association Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter.
“We take calls every day from caregivers who are dealing with loved ones at various stages of the disease,” said McMurray. “Sometimes they are in a crisis and need to be counseled through a difficult issue, and other times they may ask where to find a door alarm.” McMurray added, “Whatever their needs are, the Association is here to help.”
Alzheimer’s disease — the most common type of dementia — is a progressive brain disorder that gradually destroys a person’s memory, ability to learn, reason, make judgments, communicate and carry out daily tasks. As the disease progresses, patients may also experience changes in personality and behavior such as anxiety, suspiciousness or agitation, as well as delusions or hallucinations.
In late stages of the disease, individuals need help with dressing, personal hygiene, eating and other basic functions. The duration of the disease can vary from three to 20 years.
Although there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are several medications used to treat its symptoms. There are also new treatments on the horizon and numerous research studies underway.
The Alzheimer’s Association offers support groups for patients and their caregivers, provides educational programs, supplies resource materials, advocates on the state and federal levels, funds research, provides care consultations and operates a 24/7 toll-free Helpline.
The Alzheimer’s Association provides a wealth of information to families to assist in all phases of the disease progression:
•How to detect the warning signs;
•Ensuring safety in the home;
•Reducing the risk of wandering;
•Managing behavioral changes;
•Assisting with changing daily needs; and
•Preparing for difficult end-of-life decisions.
Alzheimer’s touches almost every family, usually in a very dramatic way. The message from Julie is one of hope and of help. The Alzheimer’s Association provides tremendous free resources to those who need it. Families wanting to learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association programs and services can call the central regional office at 508-799-2386 or visit www.alz.org/manh.
David Price is president and owner of BrightStar of Milford, Worcester and the Blackstone Valley. He can be reached at 508-282-5020 or visit his website at brightstarcare.com. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at www.fiftyplusadvocate.com.