Nearly 190,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s or a form of dementia in Michigan. With that, there are an estimated 500,000 individuals providing care and support to those battling the disease.
At its core, the Alzheimer’s Association’s mission is providing care, support and assistance to people living with the disease as well as their caregivers.
“In some forms of Alzheimer’s and dementia, memory is not the first issue.” — Jennifer Lepard, Alzheimer’s Association
“For anyone who has been through that experience, the impact of those family members is tremendous,” says Jennifer Lepard, president and CEO of Alzheimer’s Association Michigan Chapter. “When people are newly diagnosed, we really try to help them – the patient and caregiver – understand the road ahead.”
Listen: Advocacy, care and education programs for the Alzheimer’s patient and the caregiver.
Lepard, who is currently exploring a family member’s possible diagnosis, notes the confusion often present when differentiating between Alzheimer’s, a degenerative brain disease and dementia – stating that the latter is the umbrella term and the former is one of the most common form’s of the disease and is often associated with memory loss as an early sign.
“In some forms of Alzheimer’s and dementia, memory is not the first issue,” Lepard informs. “Sometimes the most obvious issue is executive functioning, which is the inability to make good decisions and manage things like bills. Another form is behavioral orientation. When the front part of your brain is impacted, you’ll see changes like loss of ambition and acting out.”
For those taking on the role of caregiver, Lepard says that the Alzheimer’s Association offers trainings and programs that assist in identifying the signs of normal and abnormal aging, guidance on questions to ask and also when one should get a cognitive assessment.
“When you go through the process, there are going to be substantial changes and we try really hard to work with individuals to look ahead and have things set in place. A friend’s elderly mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and made it very clear that she hoped to never go into an assisted living facility. He realized that [down the road] that might not be something he could honor for the rest of her life. So together, they visited some facilities, and it really provided peace of mind for the caregiver and the mother, knowing in the event she had to enter an assisted living facility, it would be one that she liked and was comfortable with.”