Symposium offers help and hope for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers

It’s the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Over 16 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with this disease. Early and accurate diagnosis could save nearly $8 trillion in medical and care costs. And this disease kills more people than breast cancer and prostrate cancer combined. The disease is Alzheimer’s.

This Wednesday from 6:30-8:30 p.m., research experts will be conducting a symposium at the Logan Library to reveal the latest advancements in Alzheimer’s treatment, as well as provide updates for caregivers of Alzheimer’s or dementia sufferers.

Dr. Beth Fauth, Ph.D., is an associate professor in Family, Consumer and Human Development at Utah State University. In partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association, she will be sharing her research findings as well as discuss the integration between well-being and social support, and the transition into needing assistance late in life.

“The intended audience is for the public,” Dr. Fauth explains. “We want the public to know this is what is happening in Alzheimer’s research, what is working and what is not working. I think people would be surprised to know the amount of research done right here in Cache Valley.”

Dr. Fauth says people who are curious about the disease (perhaps if there is a family history of Alzheimer’s or dementia) or people who may be caring for someone with dementia (and would like to know more about its causes and treatments) ought to attend the symposium, titled Reason to Hope. She says not everyone will get this condition, but most people know someone who has this disease. The risk of getting Alzheimer’s or dementia grows significantly with people over the age of 85, but aging, alone, does not cause the disease.

Ronnie Daniel, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association, Utah Chapter, will open the symposium on Wednesday, but the majority of time will be given to Dr. Fauth to share information about Alzheimer’s that most people have not heard before.

There’s a piece of this presentation that is not offered in a lot of other presentations,” Dr. Fauth explains. “If you’re curious about what is happening, this will be a really interesting presentation to go to. If you have questions about your own family, what is the research out there that can help me? I think this will work for a lot of people in our community to learn the state of what is happening in general and what is available in our community.”

The event is free to attend, but they are asking people to pre-register to have an idea of how many will be in attendance. To register, click here or call 800-272-3900.

Dr. Fauth emphasizes that the presentations will be given in language that is very easy to understand, sharing information from studies done close to home.¬†Wednesday’s symposium will share the groundbreaking research conducted right here in Cache Valley involving over 5,000 seniors, titled the Cache County Study on Memory and Aging.

“This study, basically, followed older people in our community over a period of a few years. It was looking at who got dementia, who got Alzheimer’s disease and who didn’t, and why. (We) looked at some of the stuff that was happening, what was their diet, what was their exercise like?”

Dr. Fauth says there was so much learned from the study that they decided to do spin-off studies. Once someone had Alzheimer’s disease they were followed, and so was their caregiver. They examined why some experienced a more rapid decline than others.

Those studies really put Utah State on the map in terms of dementia research.”

She says that research also revealed how to communicate with someone who has Alzheimer’s, which can often be a source of frustration with caregivers.

Dr. Fauth says Wednesday’s symposium will discuss the information learned from following the caregivers, as well.

“If you give caregivers certain training, certain emotional support, how do they do over time? We’ve got some great data that shows caregivers’ social networks improve, their family conflicts go down if they are involved in some of these interventions.”

She says, sadly, many caregivers don’t realize there are a lot of resources available which they sorely need, and are very effective.

“This is a disease that doesn’t just impact the person who gets it. It impacts their family and impacts usually one caregiver. In many families there is one person who is doing the majority of the work, for whatever reason that’s just the way things happen.

“That person has a lot to handle. They have a loved one who is sick and needs actual care. They need help with medications, driving to appointments, they may also have some behavioral problems, they may be wandering, they may be aggressive, the personality may be changing. They have to manage those things every day. They also lost a relationship with someone they really care for, they may not remember who they are.”

Dr. Fauth says this has been a major focus of her research and will be discussed on Wednesday.

The symposium is being sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association, whose role is to help support people with dementia and their caregivers. But another aspect of the organization is raising funds for research. There currently is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there has been some promising research on how to slow or stop the mental decline associated with the disease.


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