Written by Jessica Meadows
Take the following 5-question quiz to test your knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease. More detailed information follows the quiz.
TRUE or FALSE?
Q1. Flu shots increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
A1. FALSE. The doctor who proposed this statement has had his license suspended by the South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners. Several mainstream studies link flu shots and other vaccinations to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as better overall health.
Q2. Alzheimer’s disease is fatal.
A2. TRUE. Alzheimer’s disease has no survivors. It destroys brain cells and causes memory changes, erratic behaviors, and loss of body functions.
Q3. Only older people get Alzheimer’s disease.
A3. FALSE. Alzheimer’s can afflict people in their 50s, 40s, and even 30s (called “young-onset Alzheimer’s”).
Q4. Drinking out of aluminum cans can cause Alzheimer’s disease.
A4. FALSE. Studies have failed to confirm any role for aluminum in causing Alzheimer’s disease.
Q5. Silver dental fillings increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
A5. FALSE. According to the best scientific research available, there is no relationship between silver dental fillings and Alzheimer’s disease.
November is nationally recognized as Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.
Here, in Marathon County, North Central Health Care operates Mount View Care Center, which provides specialized care to many who live with dementia. We have 107 beds dedicated to residents who live each day with various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Below are a few helpful FAQs (frequently asked questions) about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia to further educate yourself during Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.
Q. Is Alzheimer’s a normal part of aging?
A. Alzheimer’s is NOT a normal part of aging. The disease typically progresses slowly in three general stages:
- Mild (early-stage)
- Moderate (middle-stage)
- Severe (late-stage)
Since this disease affects people differently, each person experiences and displays symptoms differently and will progress through the stages at different rates.
Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, with those diagnosed living an average of 8 years after symptoms become noticeable to others.
The disease has no cure, but treatments for symptoms are available and research is ongoing by organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association.
Q. What’s the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease?
A. Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Dementia is not a specific disease; it’s an overall term used to describe a range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.
Dementia is often incorrectly referred to as “senility,” which has led to the incorrect and widespread belief that serious mental decline is a normal part of aging.
Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells that interferes with the brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other. When brain cells cannot communicate normally, a person’s thinking, behavior, and feelings can be affected in many ways. While symptoms of dementia vary greatly, at least two of the following core mental functions are significantly impaired:
- Communication and language
- Ability to focus or pay attention
- Reasoning and judgment
- Visual perception
Alzheimer’s, in contrast, is a disease that attacks the brain and is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60–80% of all dementia cases.
The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering newly learned information. As the disease progresses through the brain, it can lead to increasingly severe symptoms, including:
- Mood and behavior changes
- Deepening confusion about place, time, and events
- Unfounded suspicion
- More severe memory loss
- Difficulty speaking, swallowing, and even walking
Q. Where can I learn more about Alzheimer’s and dementia locally?
A. At North Central Health Care in Wausau, dementia care experts provide free educational opportunities at Mount View Care Center for those living with dementia, as well as family and friends.
These Family Forums offer informational and educational support to those who want to know more about dementia, understand what is happening in the brain and how it affects the person’s ability to function, how to have successful interactions with a person who has dementia, and how to make visits pleasant and fulfilling. A wide variety of resources are available to help support family and friends, as well as the person with dementia.
These free sessions are listed on the North Central Health Care website at http://www.norcen.org/events/mount-view-events. The next session is available on November 3, 2017, from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. You may register by calling 715-848-4482 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. All sessions are held at Mount View Care Center in Wausau in the Lake View Room on the 2nd floor.
The Alzheimer’s Association Outreach Center in Wausau can be contacted 24-7 at their Helpline at 1-800-272-3900. Formed in 1980, the Alzheimer’s Association advances research to end Alzheimer’s and dementia while enhancing care for those living with the disease. You can visit their website at http://www.alz.org/ for information, signs, treatments, and a wealth of information to help you and your family learn about dementia and Alzheimer’s.
At Mount View Care Center, there are several innovative programs that engage dementia care residents and families. TimeSlips is an elegantly simple revolution in elder care that infuses creativity in care relationships and systems. The program provides hope and improves well-being through creativity and meaningful connections while telling stories. Mount View Care Center was selected as 1 of 50 dementia care facilities in Wisconsin to participate in the TimeSlips program and research study. You can learn more about TimeSlips at https://www.timeslips.org/.
Mount View Care Center is also involved in the SPARK! program, which is held at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, always admission free. The program is designed for individuals with memory loss, who are invited to participate with a friend, family member, or care provider in engaging art experiences. Artwork on view “sparks” conversation among participants and is followed by a hands-on art activity, as can be seen in the video below.
Family & friends register by calling 715-845-7010 for monthly programs on the second Thursday of each month, 10:30 a.m. to noon. Long-term-care facilities may schedule customized visits for their residents by calling 3 weeks in advance.
Recently, NCHC Interim CEO Michael Loy participated in the SPARK! program with residents from Mount View Care Center. Michael commented:
“It was a highlight of my week and made a difference in my life. Seeing memories come back, even though they were just for a moment, was truly beautiful and remarkable.”
Learn more about SPARK! by visiting https://www.lywam.org/spark/ or calling 715-845-7010 to register for one of the monthly SPARK! programs.
In addition, North Central Health Care dementia care team members Cagney Martin (on right) and Merry Wimmer (on left), were recently awarded a grant to provide dementia care training to nursing home professionals across Wisconsin. Their program, Stop! Starting It, aims to provide training and interventions for caregivers on how to change their approach to create more engaging, successful, and fulfilling interactions with those with dementia. Training sessions are planned beginning in January 2018 and will travel to most major cities in Wisconsin throughout the entire year.
New research comes out regularly to help those concerned about dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. For information, resources, and ways to help, please visit http://www.alz.org/. You can also contribute to local dementia efforts with a donation to North Health Foundation at http://norcen.org/foundation.
Communications & Marketing Coordinator | North Central Health Care
As the Communications and Marketing Coordinator at North Central Health Care (NCHC), Jessica Meadows is passionate about being able to use her creative talents to connect people to healthcare, resources, and networking that will impact their life in a positive way. Prior to joining NCHC, she was a Creative Director and leader at a marketing agency in the Stevens Point area. With almost 20 years’ experience in print, web, social media, video, radio, and public relations, it was important for her to connect back to her roots here in the Wausau area, where she and her husband raise their two young children. When she’s not busy at an event or volunteering, she enjoys playing sports, coaching, biking, traveling, and exploring the outdoors. Email Jessica Meadows.
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