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Hope is on the Horizon for Alzheimer’s Disease

By: Camila Cal, SeniorLivingGuide.com

The topic of Alzheimer’s and dementia can be daunting, especially as we age. We’ve consumed media, heard stories, and probably even personally experienced the difficulties that these cognitive impairments can cause for seniors. And with the prevalence of Alzheimer’s and dementia developing during the aging process, there are many questions to be asked to stay informed, especially as the medical advancements are being made often. SeniorLivingGuide.com Podcast was joined by Beth Sulkowski, Vice President of Communications of the Alzheimer’s Association South Carolina Chapter, who provided crucial information for anyone interested in learning the latest news on the Alzheimer’s and dementia front.  

Beth has worked with the Alzheimer’s Association for nearly 17 years, which means she has had a front row seat to the significant progress in finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. But first, it’s important to start with the basics.  

What is Alzheimer’s and how is it different from dementia?  

Dementia is an umbrella term for the symptoms of cognitive loss that impact daily life. Beth compares it to how cancer can be an umbrella term for many kinds of cancer. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause (approximately 60-80% of people with dementia have Alzheimer’s) but there are other types of dementia such as vascular (stroke-related), and less common dementias like Frontotemporal Dementia, Lewy Body Dementia, etc. Each dementia can impact different parts of the brain, causing different symptoms. Beth explained that if you’ve seen one case of dementia, you’ve seen just one case of dementia, because it’s truly different for everyone. If possible, you should always try to get a more specific diagnosis.  

Has there been any progress in finding a cure? SeniorLivingGuide.com Podcast Banner

Yes! Beth explained that research has continually marched forward.  

2023 marked the first FDA-approved treatment for Alzheimer’s: Leqembi. Before this year, all the drugs that were available only treated symptoms and promoted cognitive clarity. Leqembi is the first treatment that works to remove proteins in the brain that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease, Beth said. The hope is that this treatment will be the first of many. However, it has only been tested with people who have Mild Cognitive Impairment or the earliest stages of dementia due to Alzheimer’s. This means that it’s more important than ever to talk to your doctor about diagnosing cognitive changes so that you can begin treatment immediately if it is right for you.  

What are some signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia that we should be looking out for? And how do we know when we should be taking them seriously? 

As we age, forgetfulness becomes more prevalent. But forgetting where you put your keys occasionally does not necessarily mean you should be worried about having dementia. Beth explained that the signs involve memory loss that impacts day-to-day life.  

Again, the signs may be different for everyone but it’s important to monitor for actions that are out of character: Getting lost driving home from work or other familiar routes, frequently forgetting to pay important bills, losing track of appointments, difficulty finding things in your home, etc. Many people that may experience forgetfulness every now and then will often remember what was forgotten (For example: you may remember where you put your keys later in the day.), but that is not the case for those experiencing Alzheimer’s or dementia. People with dementia may have trouble understanding and judging visual images, spatial relationships, and distance. (For example: They don’t understand why or how their car got all scratched up.) They may have new difficulties with writing, frequent repetition, or other noticeable changes in language. For more signs, the Alzheimer’s Association’s “10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s” is a great resource.  

Unfortunately, many people’s first instinct is to cover up these symptoms. It’s only natural to want to avoid the feeling of embarrassment. However, it’s very important to talk to a trusted loved one and your doctor about these signs. List out your concerns and advocate for yourself because if you do need treatment, sooner really is better. An earlier diagnosis can provide you with proper medications, information on how to live independently for as long as possible, connect you and loved ones with the necessary resources, and help you plan for the future. And if it’s not dementia, it may be another treatable condition like depression, hormonal changes, thyroid issues, or hearing loss, which can also mimic those symptoms.  

What help is available for individuals and families facing Alzheimer’s or dementia? 

The Alzheimer’s Association’s mission is to advance and advocate for research, advance brain health and knowledge, and support individuals and families. Sulkowski explained that no matter what dementia someone may be facing, the Alzheimer’s Association is there to provide free, useful resources. For example, they offer a 24/7 Helpline that can individuals and caregivers can call to get answers to their questions or point them to any resources that they may need. They have education programs that range from warning signs to ways to reduce risk to how to do your best at caregiving. Several of these programs are in person, online, message board, or on demand. 

There are also ways to get involved to support the cause. By volunteering, you may have the opportunity to help with workshops, participate as a group facilitator, or to share your own story in support of policies at the state and federal levels. The Alzheimer’s Association relies on volunteers, especially for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which takes place in over 600 communities nationwide during the fall.  

Beth said that hope is on the horizon. And while it may take some time to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, there are still many resources and support available that can help now. By staying informed, advocating for yourself/loved ones, and being involved with the community, you too can fight back against this disease! 

For more senior and caregiver resource podcasts, visit SeniorLivingGuide.com Podcast or they can be found, listened and downloaded most anywhere you enjoy music or podcasts such as Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Podchaser, and more! 


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