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Local experts talk about dementia

 

November 15, 2017 | View PDF

Christopher Andersson

Marilyn Enright, outreach support specialist at the Stillaguamish Senior Center, left, and Hazel Borden, outreach coordinator with the Washington state chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, talk about dementia at a public forum on Nov. 9.

Local caregiving experts came to the Stillaguamish Senior Center to talk about the various forms of dementia and what caregivers should know.

The public forum was part of a series of talks about relevant issues hosted by the Sno-Isle Libraries called "Issues that Matter."

Dementia is the umbrella term for many neurological diseases that impair brain function including Alzheimer's disease, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia, among others.

It's important to know exactly what type of dementia that you are dealing with.

"There is definitely value to getting the proper diagnosis," said Hazel Borden, outreach coordinator with the Washington state chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

There are different therapies and medications that are used for different types.

"Although there is no medication that is going to cure or reverse or stop Alzheimer's disease, there are some medications that can help with some of the symptoms and their memory," said Borden.

There are also some types of dementia that are "reversible."

"There are dementias caused by medications and maybe that can be changed by getting a proper diagnosis," said Borden.

Borden said an accurate diagnosis takes time as well. "You don't want a diagnosis right off the bat because to get a good diagnosis there is a whole battery of tests you have to go through," she said.

Having a proper diagnosis can also let you know what to expect as the dementia develops.

"For example, people who have frontotemporal dementia have a personality change," said Ruth Egger, family caregiver specialist with Homage Senior Services, a Snohomish County organization that provides support to seniors with disabilities and their caregivers.

"It's so important to know, just so that we can protect each other," she said.

Egger said that caregivers should also look after themselves as well.

"You have to acknowledge that you can not do everything yourself," she said.

"It doesn't mean you're not a great caregiver or that you love your care receiver less," she said.

There are many support groups available for caregivers to those with dementia which can help people through tough times, she said.

Contacting your local senior center will usually get you in contact with a social worker who can point you to those local support groups, said Egger.

More groups are trying to build dementia-friendly activities for caregivers and their care receivers as well.

"We do try keep an eye open to make our activities available for many different levels of participation," said Marilyn Enright, outreach support specialist at the Stillaguamish Senior Center.

Enright said that one group, SNOMENTIA-North, which formed this year, has been working to build dementia-friendly activities in the north Snohomish County area.

The current plan includes a arts/craft activity, a walk of some kind and a sports activity.

"I can't give you dates yet because these are still in the works," said Enright.

Those who are aging and worried about dementia are encouraged to eat healthy foods, stay socially active and stay physically active, as those activities have been shown to reduce the risk of dementia.

Christopher Andersson

Ruth Egger, family caregiver specialist with Homage Senior Services, talks about dementia at a public forum on Nov. 9.

"Studies have shown that 15 minutes of vigorous exercise a day is all you need to help reduce the risk," said Borden.

Alice Allen-Redfern, care consultant with the Washington state chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, said to be skeptical of reports that say Alzheimer's can be reversed.

"If you have heard about these studies that present a cure, you should look into them, who are the people studied? And it's always like four people in Russia," she joked.

"I always say to my clients that as soon as we know a cure I will call you personally," she said.

Borden said that there is legitimate research still going on in regard to curing the disease and that it is a possibility we will see a cure in our lifetimes.

"There is a reason to hope and that is a tagline we like to use," she said.

 

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