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Understanding Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month: A Guide for Suncoast Readers

| Angela Naff |

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. For residents of the Suncoast, this month offers an opportunity to learn more about these conditions. Finding ways to support affected individuals and their families and contribute to the ongoing efforts to find a cure is crucial.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects memory, thinking, and behavior. It is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of dementia cases. The disease primarily affects older adults, although it can also occur in younger individuals. Symptoms typically begin with mild memory loss and confusion, eventually leading to severe cognitive and functional impairment.

The Impact of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease has a profound impact not only on those diagnosed but also on their families and caregivers. In the United States, more than 6 million people are living with Alzheimer’s, a number expected to rise as the population ages. In Florida, a state with a significant elderly population, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s is particularly high. The emotional, physical, and financial toll on families can be overwhelming, making awareness and support crucial.

The Importance of Awareness

Raising awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is vital for several reasons:

  1. Early Diagnosis and Intervention: Awareness can lead to early diagnosis, which is essential for managing symptoms and planning for the future. Early intervention can improve the quality of life for those affected and provide valuable support for families.
  2. Reducing Stigma: Dementia is often surrounded by stigma and misconceptions. Increasing public understanding can reduce the stigma and encourage more open conversations about the disease.
  3. Supporting Research: Awareness campaigns help generate funding for research, which is crucial for developing new treatments and, ultimately, a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

The Importance of Awareness

Understanding the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can help with early detection and intervention. While occasional forgetfulness is a normal part of aging, Alzheimer’s involves more severe and persistent memory loss and cognitive decline. Here are some key signs to watch for:

  1. Memory Loss That Disrupts Daily Life
    • This is one of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s, especially forgetting recently learned information. Other signs include forgetting important dates or events, asking for the same information repeatedly, and increasingly relying on memory aids or family members for things they used to handle on their own.
  2. Challenges in Planning or Solving Problems
    • Individuals may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They might have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. Concentration can be difficult, and they may take much longer to do things than they did before.
  3. Difficulty Completing Familiar Tasks
    • People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks. They may have trouble driving to a familiar location, organizing a grocery list, or remembering the rules of a favorite game.
  4. Confusion with Time or Place
    • Losing track of dates, seasons, and the passage of time is common. People with Alzheimer’s may forget where they are or how they got there. They might also have difficulty understanding something if it is not happening immediately.
  5. Trouble Understanding Visual Images and Spatial Relationships
    • For some, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s. This can lead to difficulty with balance or trouble reading. They may also have problems judging distance and determining color or contrast, which can cause issues with driving.
  6. New Problems with Words in Speaking or Writing
    • Individuals with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They might stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea what they were even saying.

Alzheimer’s disease impacts primarily older adults, but also loved ones, friends, and their extended community. June is a great time to bring the spotlight to the the different brain diseases, but especially this troubling disease. Advocacy, education, and support are the cornerstones of finding a cure and living alongside people dealing with this disease. Hopefully, in time medical advances will change the trajectory of Alzheimer’s and Brain diseases. In the meantime, let’s advocate, raise funds, and support anyone dealing with this all year – not just this single month.

Photo Courtesy of Pexels

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