During the month of November, communities across the United States are sporting purple in recognition of National Alzheimer's Awareness Month. It is estimated that nearly six million Americans live with this incurable disease, a number that is expected to triple by 2050.
Being that Alzheimer's is so prevalent, it is important to recognize the early signs and symptoms. According to the National Alzheimer's Association, early symptoms include memory loss that disrupts daily life, challenges in planning or solving problems, difficulty with familiar tasks, confusion with time or places, misplacing things and losing ability to retrace steps, decreased or poor judgement, mood swings and withdrawal from social activities.
Alzheimer's Awareness Month was first recognized in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan. At the time of the declaration, less than two million Americans were diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Now, it is estimated that 700,000 will die from the disease in 2016, as it is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., and the only cause of death in the top 10 that cannot be prevented or cured.
While there is no cure for Alzheimer's, there are treatment options available such as clinical trials and medications designed to delay some of the symptoms. The National Institute on Aging recommends some medications on their website, each designed for a different stage of Alzheimer's. Medications include Razadyne, Exelon, Aricept, Namzaric and Namenda.
“The Federal Government is the leading funder of Alzheimer's research, and together with the scientific community, patient advocates, and advocacy groups, we are supporting a broad portfolio of research as part of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer's Disease -- which maps concrete goals toward the prevention and effective treatment of Alzheimer's by 2025,” states a proclamation by President Obama. “With the expansion and innovation of research initiatives, we are gaining new insight on how to delay, treat, and prevent this disease.
In Ascension Parish, St. Elizabeth Hospital hosted a free memory screening earlier this month. The local hospital also offers monthly supportive meetings for Alzheimer's caregivers the first Tuesday of each month at the Sr. Vernola Conference Room from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Other events sponsored by St. Elizabeth Hospital include a free Alzheimer's Lunch and Learn event on Nov. 14 from noon to 2 p.m. where individuals with dementia and their caregivers can learn about different types of activities that can be done. Dana Territo, Director of Services with Alzheimer's Services of the Capital Area in Baton Rouge, and Chef Sally will be the guest speakers.
To find a nearby screening call the Alzheimer's Foundation of America at (866) 232-8484 or visit nationalmemoryscreening.org.