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 you.
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.
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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:
- What to expect as the disease progresses
- Treatment options and clinical trials
- Diet and exercise programming
- Cultivating happiness and purpose
- Introduction to community resources
- Strategies for strengthening working and short term memory
- How 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 Memory Club improved their lives.
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.
Early Memory Loss Forum
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.
The take-away message: you are not alone. Our community has programs and services that can help you navigate the challenges of early memory loss. In reaching out for support, you likely have nothing to lose and almost everything to gain: information, support, and community.
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.