Staff members from the Central Ohio Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association recently visited Pickerington in hopes of educating area residents about dementia and services available to people with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers.

As an April 4 community forum at the Pickerington Senior Center showed, 90 minutes isn't nearly enough time for people faced with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia to fully come to terms with the conditions or find the best paths to help.

But it's a start, said Tricia Bingham, director of programs and services for the Central Ohio Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

"The community forum is a new, kind of like a town hall event that is new to our association," Bingham said.

"We reach out to let you know what services we have ... and also to learn from you the roadblocks you've come up against in your dementia care path, understanding of Alzheimer's disease in general.

"We just want to know what has been your experience up to this point, where you are right now, and the things that you're concerned about. We really want to know that."

About 30 people -- including caregivers for people with Alzheimer's and volunteers for the Alzheimer's Association -- attended the forum.

In addition to learning about some of the resources available, the event served as an opportunity to share stories with peers and representatives of the Alzheimer's Association.

In many ways, the event was an open therapy session. Several caregivers expressed the pain and frustrations they have encountered in seeing loved ones' cognitive functions deteriorate and the physical and emotional tolls it takes to worry and care for those people.

"We're burned out," said Debra Ilves, who cares for a family member with Alzheimer's. "Thank God I'm somebody who goes to support groups.

"If I hadn't finally found the Alzheimer's Association, I think I would have fallen totally apart."

Bingham said studies have found Alzheimer's caregivers are more susceptible to cardiac risks, anxiety and depression.

She said those who care for someone with Alzheimer's and related dementias should look for resources from the Alzheimer's Association and others to help lift their burdens.

"We know that if you're not getting supports in place, you cannot take care of them as long as you might and ideally want to have them at home," Bingham said.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, 5.8 million people in the U.S. are living with Alzheimer's disease.

The organization projects that number will rise to 14 million by 2050.

Additionally, the Alzheimer's Association reports the disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S., and that in 2019, caregivers will provide 18.5 billion hours of care to those with the disease. Attendees listed denial -- both on the part of people with Alzheimer's or symptoms of the disease, as well as family and friends of those people -- is a significant issue with which to deal.

They also cited a lack of assisted-living facilities in the community that can adequately serve people with Alzheimer's as a problem in Pickerington.

Michelle Crum, early-stage and volunteer coordinator for the Central Ohio chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, shared the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer's.

The full list can be found at alz.org. The signs include memory loss that disrupts daily life, challenges in planning or solving problems and difficulty completing familiar tasks at home at work or at leisure.

Crum said one of the key ways to address Alzheimer's is to make sure older adults, typically age 65 or older, receive annual cognitive assessments from doctors.

"A lot of the times you look at the warning signs and in hindsight you say, 'Oh my goodness, this makes so much sense,' " Crum said. "It's really hard to identify, but there's so much importance in understanding it."

Bingham and Crum said people faced with Alzheimer's and caregivers should reach out to the Alzheimer's Association for help finding care resources and support.

Greg Johnson of Pickerington also said he organizes an Alzheimer's support group that meets the second Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. in Peace United Methodist Church, 235 Diley Road, Pickerington.

"I really believe in it," Johnson said. "It did a lot of good for me.

"It's just kind of like this evening. You hear things, you find out little tricks for dealing with it. You can share your ups and downs. A lot of it's not good, but it's good to know what you're coming up against."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

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