THE ISSUE: Citrus County is home to a large senior population.
OUR OPINION: It behooves the community to be informed.
With Citrus County having one of the state’s oldest populations, Alzheimer’s disease should be a concern to seniors and to the community at large.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America notes it is important to understand Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is not a normal part of aging, and it is important to look for signs that might indicate Alzheimer’s disease versus basic forgetfulness or other conditions.
With Alzheimer’s disease, the symptoms gradually increase and become more persistent.
But exactly what is Alzheimer’s disease?
According to the foundation: “Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that impacts memory, thinking and language skills, and the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia.”
Take note: Dementia itself is not a disease, but a term used to describe symptoms such as loss of memory, loss of judgment and other intellectual functions.
The main markers of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain are reported to be high amounts of two proteins: beta-amyloid and tau. Beta-amyloid was discovered in 1984. Two years later, tangles of tau were discovered in people with AD. Both proteins may cause brain cell damage. Researchers don’t know yet if high levels of beta-amyloid and tau cause AD or if they’re symptoms.
Alzheimer’s disease can cause dementia. Now, sadly, more than 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease.
AD is not new. Dr. Alois Alzheimer first noted the unique symptoms of the disease way back in 1906, with a patient who experienced memory loss, paranoia, psychological changes and shrinking of the brain. Psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin, Dr. Alzheimer’s colleague, coined the name “Alzheimer’s disease” in a 1910 medical book.
Scientists have carefully studied the disease since that time, but so much is still unknown about AD. The first clinical drug trial to combat Alzheimer’s was in 1978 and genetic studies among families began in 2003.
And through the years, we have become quite fearful of AD. Memory lapses, confusion, mood swings, forgetfulness — all attributable to many causes — have made us conscious of what could be a more serious problem.
There is hope. New drug trials are ongoing and we have learned more about how a healthier lifestyle can help. Not cure, but at least help. Even our fear of the disease may spur us to follow up with medical checkups, just in case. Earlier diagnosis is a plus in coping and treating the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
We are lucky to live in a community with impressive resources for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. Support comes in the form of trained educators teaching coping skills, support groups, education about the disease, businesses and churches striving to become “dementia friendly” and trained, empathetic health care providers, to name a few examples. Caregivers can rest easier with special “scent kits” to help keep their loved one safer. We can learn from a “Virtual Dementia Tour” provided by a home health care agency. The YMCA has a special “Art from the Heart” program. Publications are even available for education about firearms and AD patients.
In a nutshell, a strong, dedicated group of people here consistently put in a profound amount of work in the fight against Alzheimer’s. And we can all do something to help.
Want to take a step in that direction? This Saturday, the annual Walk Aware to support Alzheimer’s will take place in Floral City. Show your support by participating in your choice of a 1/4-mile walk, a 1 1/2-mile walk or a historic walk. Pre-registration is at 8 a.m. with opening ceremonies at 9 a.m. The walk begins at 9:30 a.m. Cost is $25 per person, $10 for children ages 6-12 and free if younger than 5. To register, call 352-616-0170.