In recognition of Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, observed each June, the Osceola Council on Aging (OCOA) felt it an important topic to illustrate. Seven million people in the United States are living with either Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) or varying forms of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association projects by the year 2050 that statistic will increase to nearly 13 million.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disease which destroys memory and important mental functions. The disease causes brain cell connections, and the brain cells themselves to degenerate, die, and eventually leads to the destruction of a person’s memory.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, AD is the most common cause of dementia. Though it commonly affects people over age 65, researchers believe the disease process can begin10 years, or more, before first symptoms appear.

A new program created by the National Institutes on Aging is also raising awareness on AD amongst the Latino community, including those living with dementia, their caregivers, and families. This outreach program is being offered during the month of June, and is focused on research, resources, and clinical trials in both English and Spanish. Information on this specific initiative can be found at www.nia.nih.gov/ news/alzheimers-and-brainawareness- month-2024.

For more than 40 years, the OCOA has offered an Adult Daycare Healthcare Program, and In-Home Respite Program for families and caregivers to meet the health, nutritional, social, and daily needs of clients with dementia and AD. The Adult Daycare Healthcare Program offers a safe, stimulating environment for individuals with AD and other forms of dementia. This program provides a range of activities tailored to enhance cognitive function, physical health, and emotional well-being, and aims to promote independence and improve quality of life while giving caregivers a much-needed respite during the day.

“Participants benefit from personalized care plans, engaging activities, nutritious meals, and social interaction, all under the supervision of experienced healthcare professionals,” said OCOA SVP of Health Services Chris Hougland.

The In-Home Respite Program supports caregivers which offers temporary relief by providing professional caregiving services, in the comfort of the client’s home.

“Trained respite care providers assist with daily living activities, medication management, and companionship, allowing primary caregivers time to rest, address personal matters, or simply recharge. This program ensures continuity of care and peace of mind, knowing their loved ones are in capable hands,” Hougland added.

Together, these programs underscore the OCOA’s dedication to enhancing the lives of those affected by AD and other brain-related conditions. By offering comprehensive support and innovative care solutions, we are fostering a community where those with cognitive impairments can thrive, and caregivers receive the support they need. As the adage says, “this disease slowly steals the victim’s mind, leaving a long trail of brokendown, worn-out family members and caregivers behind.” It’s an extremely sad, but true statement, and why we are so proud to have these offerings.

For anyone who has family members struggling with any type of cognitive decline, the Alzheimer’s Association states there are warning signs and symptoms to watch for: • Memory loss disrupting daily life;

• Challenges in planning or solving problems;

• Difficulty completing familiar tasks;

• Confusion with time and place;

• Misplacing objects while losing the ability to retrace steps;

Decreased or poor judgment;

• Withdrawal from work or social activities;

• Changes in mood or personality

If these symptoms are familiar signs for an aging family member, it is best to reach out to your healthcare provider to discuss. Sadly, no cure exists for this disease, but medications and management strategies may temporarily improve symptoms and delay the mental decline.

Statistically, AD was the fifth-leading cause of death among people aged sixty-five and older in 2021, with health and long-term care costs for patients projected to reach $360 billion by 2024.

With that in mind, we should all be initiative-taking, for better brain health. For healthy tips and habits, go to https://www.alz.org/help-support/brain_health .