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  • Writer's pictureAlex Strein, MBA

Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness Month

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. With one in three seniors struggling with some form of dementia, awareness is more important now than ever. There are many ways to positively impact the life of a person living with dementia and their caregivers. This month, we had the pleasure of interviewing Kris Izzi with our local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association to learn more about Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Question- Let’s just get the age old “tell us about yourself” question out of the way. Kris, could you tell us a little bit about yourself.

Kris- I am the community outreach coordinator for the Greater Kentucky and Southern Indiana chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. I have been married to my beautiful wife Amy for 12 years and we have a beautiful fur baby, Lucy. When I’m not at work, I like to do standup comedy.

Question- There is a lot of confusion about the terms “Alzheimer’s” and “dementia”. Could you help our readers get a better idea of the differences between the two?

Kris- Dementia is an umbrella term to describe changes in someone’s memory, thinking or reasoning. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia. The analogy is that I like to use is that dementia is like saying “cereal” while Alzheimer’s is like saying “Raisin Bran.” Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, making up about 60% of cases.

Question- People often use terms like “mild cognitive impairment,” “early stage” and “late stage,” but those terms may not be clear for everyone. Could you tell us a little bit about the different stages of the disease?

Kris- Dementia is a spectrum. Mild Cognitive Impairment is the first symptomatic phase, where people start showing issues with their memory, thinking and reasoning. The stages are just a way to group symptoms, but no one’s journey with Alzheimer’s is the same. Just because someone has a certain symptom doesn’t mean that they fit into a certain stage.

Question- Could you give us some facts and figures about dementia in our country and in our state?

Kris- Nationwide, over 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Only 4 in 10 Americans talk to their doctor right away about cognitive changes. The 2023 facts and figures are showing that there will be an estimated 86,000 individuals living with Alzheimer’s in Kentucky by 2025. We’re currently seeing about 175,000 unpaid caregivers in the state. 65.5% of caregivers are living with a chronic health condition themselves, and 40% report living with depression.

Question- Is there any exciting research going on right now you can tell us about?

Kris- Since 2021, there have been two new medications that have come out that are show promising results for slowing Alzheimer’s in the earliest stages- Lequemby and Aduhelm. Donanemab is also in its third clinical trial and it’s showing a lot of promise. This is a huge milestone, as since there haven’t been any new medications on the market in many years, and these medications were not able to slow the progression of the disease. There are a lot of great things happening out there right now, many people are referring to this time as the age of treatment!

Question- Could you talk a little bit about what people can do to keep their brains healthy?

Kris- Some of the best things coming out of research are about sleep. Making sure you get 7-8 hours a night and having good sleep hygiene can really reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and Dementia. There is a lot of linkage between heart health and brain health as well. Eating a heart healthy diet and getting exercise are very helpful for brain health. Learning new things is also helpful because it help develop new neural pathways in the brain. That can be in the form of taking classes, working puzzles, reading or doing brainteasers. People at any age can start developing these healthy habits to help reduce their risk!

Question- What advice would you give to someone living with dementia? Their caregivers?

Kris- To the person living with dementia, I would say that some of the best advice would be to make sure to be vocal about the type of care you want to receive. Let people know how you want to be cared for. Something that caregivers often struggle with is wondering if they make the right decisions. Being vocal makes sure that your needs and wants are met. I would also say to live every day to the fullest. There are people living with dementia that are doing incredible things out there. They can still make a difference.

To a care partner, I would say that it is important to educate yourself as much as possible. As someone experiences changes in their journey with dementia, their care partner will have to make changes, too. It’s also important to take time for selfcare. Make sure to take time to do the things that you love and to find time to rest.

Question- What services does the Alzheimer’s Association offer?

Kris- One of our best resources is our 24/7 helpline 800-272-3900. Any individual can contact this number- a person living with dementia, a caregiver, a professional- anyone can call this number to learn more. They can receive information from a master’s level clinician to help them navigate issues and learn more about the disease. The helpline can also help connect individuals to local programs and resources. It can also help connect professionals to training options that may be going on locally.

We also offer a lot of educational programs, both in person and virtually. We have specific programs for individuals living with the disease, their caregivers and professionals in the community.

TrialMatch is on the Alzheimer’s Association website can help connect individuals to clinical trials that may be going on near them to help advance research. It’s a free clinical trial match making service!

We also offer support groups. There is one starting at The Paragon very soon! Support groups offer a safe and confidential environment for caregivers to talk.

Assisted Living can be a great resource for persons with mild cognitive impairment or dementia in the early stages. Assisted Living can offer assistance with activities of daily living, like bathing and dressing. Communities can also help the person with dementia develop a healthy routine to help offset triggers for behaviors, while helping them to engage in social activities. Additionally, Assisted Living can offer medication reminder services to help ensure that medications are being taken appropriately. Assisted Living can help give caregivers peace of mind- knowing their loved one is cared for can help them heal relationships and make time for themselves.

Call The Paragon of Madisonville to learn more.

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