By Denise Dick
More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s Disease — 230,000 of them in Ohio and 60,000 in eastern Ohio.
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.
“We need more concern and awareness about Alzheimer’s Disease,” said Pam Schuellerman, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association - Greater East Ohio Chapter. “Many people brush it off as an older person’s illness.”
The national organization has launched a new effort, the Alzheimer’s Early Detection Alliance, aimed at companies and organizations.
“It’s an opportunity for companies or organizations to join the alliance and make that commitment to support and educate their members, or employees or staffs...,” the executive director said. “It’s an effort for them to know that this disease touches employees whether they’re caregivers or they’re experiencing early memory loss.”
Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, a fatal, degenerative brain disease, early detection is important for families emotionally to be aware that something is happening to a loved one, Schuellerman said.
“It’s a chance financially and legally to make decisions, to make end-of-life decisions with some comfort that decisions involved the person with the memory loss,” she said.
If the disease is detected early, the person with Alzheimer’s can be engaged in the planning process and decisions regarding their future and their care.
Barry and JoAnn Claycomb of Austintown have, for example, visited some area nursing homes so that Barry, 68, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about four years ago, can tell JoAnn, 66, what he likes or doesn’t like about a specific facility.
When a person or a family member is diagnosed, Schuellerman said it’s important to educate yourself about the disease and the changes it will bring. It’s also critical to understand that it affects everyone differently and to know that there’s help available.
Besides the Alzheimer’s Association, located on U.S. Route 224, the Area Agency on Aging and other organizations can also provide assistance.
“You don’t have to do everything yourself,” she said. “A lot of times families just don’t know what’s available to them.”