PHOTO/ADOBE STOCK: Worldwide, more than 55 million people are living with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease and the most common form of dementia, which is an overall term that describes a group of symptoms and not a specific disease.

Mark Beekman became lethargic shortly after he retired from his job as a Reno maintence worker at age 65; his condition was diagnosed as depression. Then his memory began failing and he became prone to previously-uncharacteristic angry outbursts.

“We finally went in for an evaluation and he failed a lot of the (cognitive) tests,” said Dawn, Mark’s wife, a former Sparks resident. “It was Alzheimer’s disease… He kept getting more and more confused; everything that made him himself was disappearing before my eyes. It’s been a nightmare for both of us.”

Mark, now 73, is in a nursing home in California. Dawn visits him regularly, but Mark no longer recognizes the woman he married 49 years ago. “It took a long time for me to realize how sick he was getting,” Dawn said. She had heard of Alzheimer’s, but didn’t know much about it. After Mark’s diagnosis she initially had no idea how to help him or cope with the massive changes in their lives.

“I wish I knew then what I know now,” Dawn said.

The Northern California and Northern Nevada Alzheimer’s Association Nonprofit provides education, care and support for families dealing with the effects of the disease. Currently, more than 650,000 people in California are living with Alzheimer’s, and more than 1.6 million family and friends are providing care. In Nevada, more than 45,000 people live with Alzheimer’s, with 149,000 providing care. The local office can be reached at (775) 786-8061 or by clicking on the hotlink, above.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America hosts a National Toll-Free Helpline at 866-232-8484 and free virtual chats via the foundation’s website  by clicking the blue and white chat icon in the right-hand corner of the page. The web chat feature is available in more than 90 languages.

Registration for virtual conference

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is in the midst of a national effort to educate people about the disease and its treatments and trajectory. The Foundation will host a free virtual Alzheimer’s educational conference for Nevada residents on Wednesday, April 6, from 10 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.(Pacific Time) as part of its 2022 national Educating America Tour. The conference, which is free and open to everyone, will allow participants to learn from, and ask questions of, health and care-giving experts. Registration is available on the foundation’s website.

“Knowledge is a useful and powerful tool that can help make any situation easier to navigate, especially something as challenging as caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA’s president and CEO. “Connecting families with useful, practical information and support that can help them now and be better prepared for the future is what this conference is all about. Whether Alzheimer’s is affecting your family, you are a caregiver or just want to learn more, you can participate in this free virtual conference from the comfort of your home or office.” 

Sessions during conference include:

  • COVID and Alzheimer’s Disease: The Future of this Interaction –  Dylan Wint, M.D., will provide an overview of Alzheimer’s disease and talk about the relationship between Alzheimer’s disease and COVID-19.  He will discuss how individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related illnesses, and their caregivers, are affected by the pandemic, what we can expect down the line, and what steps can be taken to keep them safe.  Dr. Wint is the Interim Director and Director of Education at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas.
  • Celebrating Life Through Meaningful Activities–  Just because you are diagnosed with dementia does not mean that you cannot live a meaningful life.  It is important to continue to enjoy life and participate in activities that make you happy.  Jennifer Carson, Ph.D., a gerontologist and Director of the DEER (Dementia Engagement, Education, and Research) Program in the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada, Reno, will discuss research to better understand the meaning and nature of leisure within the context of dementia.  She will provide guidance on how to support a loved one’s well-being and help them celebrate life to the fullest through meaningful activities and experiences. This can help reduce stress and improve mood.  Dr. Carson is also Project Director of the Dementia Friendly Nevada initiative and Project Director of the NEST Collaborative, a statewide effort that provides volunteer-hosted social support and technology assistance to older adults, adults living with disabilities, and veterans.
  • Collaborating as a Dementia Care Team: Critical Ways Families and Health Care Staff Must Work Together –  When a dementia-related illness enters your life, it can be overwhelming. As a caregiver, it is a task that you should not take on alone.  It is important to have a support structure in place.  Kim Warchol, OTR/L, President and Founder of Dementia Care Specialists at Crisis Prevention Institute, will advise caregivers on how to form a dementia care team comprised of family members and professionals.  She will highlight some of the most critical areas for collaboration and provide recommendations to optimize effectiveness that can improve diagnosing, treating and caring for dementia.
IMAGE/ADOBE STOCK: The graphic spotlights early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

Stress-reduction yoga

There will also be a guided chair yoga session led by yoga instructor, Sheryl Oleksak, 500 ERYT, demonstrating how this practice can connect your mind and body and help release tension or stress and increase feelings of safety and comfort. 

Details and registration for the April 6 conference can be found on the foundation’s website. Those who cannot participate in the conference or who have immediate questions about Alzheimer’s disease can connect with licensed social workers seven days a week through AFA’s National Toll-Free Helpline at 866-232-8484 or by web chatting via the foundation’s website  by clicking the blue and white chat icon in the right-hand corner of the page. The web chat feature is available in more than 90 languages.

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