November is Alzheimer’s awareness month, and on Nov. 10, The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America will host a free, virtual, educational conference for Utah residents as part of its national Educating America Tour.

In the past, Alzheimer's Foundation of America has been able to hold their educational conferences in person. (Courtesy of AFA)
In the past, Alzheimer's Foundation of America has been able to hold their educational conferences in person. (Courtesy of AFA)

According to The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, there are 34,000 people in Utah living with Alzheimer’s disease. Across the U.S., there are 5.8 million people living with the disease; by 2060, that number is projected to grow to 14 million. It is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S..

The conference will be from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and will include different sessions from leading medical, elder law and dementia care experts.

Special guest Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of The Dr. Oz Show, will discuss how Alzheimer’s has impacted his life and family.

There will be a discussion about proactive family engaged care by Dr. Troy Christian Andersen, who will discuss different medical and social services for individuals living with dementia and other dementia related illnesses.

Bruce W. Lee will lead a discussion about living at home with dementia, which will give different tips to help people live their best lives as they deal with the life challenges dementia presents.

The final discussion will be on loneliness and social isolation in the older adult population, by Anne Asman.

Families and caregivers will be given different tips on how to handle and combat loneliness and isolation, an especially prevalent issue right now due to COVID-19.

Chris Schneider, director of communications at the AFA, said that the organization wants to let people know about the services they offer to help those affected by Alzheimer’s disease, “whether they’re caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, they’re dealing with it themselves, or they just want to learn more about brain health.” That’s why they are are holding their Educating America Tour.

“Knowledge is a tool of empowerment,” Schneider said. “Any situation you’re in, the more you know, and know about what’s available to help you, the more effectively you’ll be able to deal with it.”

Schneider said that when Alzheimer’s enters a family’s life it doesn’t just impact the person who physically has the disease, it affects the entire family, including children.

“Students have a very active roll in this,” Schneider said. “A lot of them are serving as caregivers right now, or want to pursue a degree in being a caregiver, or they just want to get involved and help.”

Schneider said raising awareness is a huge part of helping and getting involved that makes a difference. He said that the AFA has a program called “Light the World in Teal” that encourages others to change their social media profile pictures to a teal hue and share links to information about Alzheimer’s disease and resources.

Teal is the AFA’s Alzheimer’s awareness color, though the official ribbon color of the Alzheimer’s movement is purple.

Sandy Silverstein, media relations manager at the AFA, said that November will also include a few more events for Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, such as the Alzheimer’s Virtual Walk in the Park throughout November, with a kickoff on Nov. 1. They will also conduct virtual memory screenings every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in November.

Silverstein also said the AFA just published a children’s book, titled “Dancing with Granddad: An Alzheimer’s Story for Children and Their Families,” to help parents talk to their children about the disease if they have a family member going through it;

Schneider said that if people have family members who struggle with Alzheimer’s, they shouldn’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help if they need it.

The AFA offers a 24/7 help hotline run by licensed social workers available in 90 different languages. The helpline can also help families find other services within their area.

Schneider said that AFA’s founder was a former caregiver whose mother lived with alzheimer’s in the ‘80s and ‘90s, who at the time felt like he had to deal with it alone because there wasn’t another place to turn to. He started the organization in 2002 “so other families didn’t have to go through this journey alone.”

The AFA’s mission is to “provide support, services and education to individuals, families and caregivers affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias nationwide, and fund research for better treatment and a cure,” according to their website. The organization is headquartered in New York City.

To purchase tickets for the conference, or find resources and more information on AFA, visit: https://alzfdn.org.

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