Stay Connected With Your Community

On Friday May 10th the South Sound Alzheimer’s Council hosted its annual Alzheimer’s conference at the Westwood Baptist Church in Olympia.  Over 150 people were in attendance to garner valuable knowledge presented by several extraordinary speakers as well as over 20 businesses and professionals to provide resources for family members with Alzheimer’s/Dementia.

The day began with the exciting announcement that the South Sound Alzheimer’s Council will officially be a part of the Washington State Chapter of the National Alzheimer’s Association as of June 1st!  The new name of the group will be the “South Sound Regional Advisory Council, Alzheimer’s Association, Washington State Chapter”.  As a part of the National Alzheimer’s Association, this new chapter will have terrific access to resources both for future conferences as well as the annual Alzheimer’s Walks.  In addition, the South Sound Regional Advisory Council will continue to be able to offer consulting services “pro bono” for those families in need.

Due to this new association with the Alzheimer’s Association, the local chapter was offered their choice of speakers for the May conference!  Emily Trittschuh, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington School of Medicine, was secured to be the Keynote speaker for Olympia.  Her presentation, “If It’s Not Alzheimer’s, What Is It”, went into not only several different types of dementia(s), but also some of the risk factors and statistics regarding Alzheimer’s/Dementia(s).

Five of the most well-known forms of dementia were discussed in detail:  Vascular Dementia, Alzheimer’s Dementia, Lewy Body Dementia, Parkinson’s Dementia and Frontotemporal Dementia.  Dr. Trittschuh noted that there are many other types of dementia connected with other diseases, such as dementia as a result of ALS, alcohol-induced dementia and more.  Risk factors of the various types of dementia include Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI’s), Smoking, Diabetes, Obesity, Strokes, High Blood Pressure, Cerebral Vascular Disease etc..

The good news is that there are also PROTECTIVE FACTORS which may very well reduce not only the risk of Dementia but the rate at which it progresses in the brain.  Dr. Trittschuh stated “our brains crave interaction”, while noting that staying active and social really can and does help reduce our risk of developing Alzheimer’s Dementia.  She also noted that certain kinds of diets may help:  mentioning the “Mediterranean Diet” or a diet higher in lean proteins, while also cautioning us to watch out for any “fad” type diets.

Most important of all, however, is staying connected!  Maintaining an active, social lifestyle – connected with family and community – vastly improves the quality of life of those suffering from Alzheimer’s/Dementia.  For the rest of us, this type of connectivity to each other may also help prevent the onset of dementia.  In Thurston County, the Momentia program is a great community organization under the umbrella of Senior Services of South Sound, providing several events and activities monthly for families and their loved ones with this illness.

The afternoon sessions kicked off with panel discussions split into two rooms.  The professionals on the panels represented experts from the Area Agency on Aging, Hospice Care, Senior Services of South Sound and eldercare counselors from Sound Options.  An open Q&A started lively discussions in each room, around a variety of subjects from how to deal with argumentative behaviors – especially when safety is an issue – to how do we build a “team” to assist our family as we cope with the decline of our loved one?  ‘Every Family Caregiver Needs A Team’ including their physician, a professional caregiver, an aging life care professional, an elder law attorney and perhaps another specialist in the field of Alzheimer’s Dementia.  Not to mention the support of community – family and friends!

The final panel presentation of the day we heard from Bruce Bamford, Long Term Care financial planner and Janet Moody, Elder Law Attorney.  Bruce and Janet discussed with the audience HOW to prepare and plan for long term care both BEFORE it’s needed and after!  Mr. Bamford specializes in long term care planning and is extremely knowledgeable in the Medicaid application process, while Attorney Moody has years of experience in her practice assisting seniors and their family members with Power of Attorney documents, Wills & Trusts, Probate etc.

All in all, this year’s Alzheimer’s Conference did not disappoint!  Lots of important information, useful tools to take home, resources for the future and more.  The next event hosted by the South Sound Regional Advisory Council will be the Annual Alzheimer’s Walk on Sunday, September 22nd at Heritage Park in downtown Olympia.  Build a team, mark your calendars and come on down to walk with us!  For more information on the Walk or the Association, go to www.alz.org/walk.
Written by Lark Church