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What the heck is Alzheimer’s

By Lisa Wurthmann

Many times, Alzheimer’s is lightly referred to as “Old Timer’s Disease or CRS (Can’t remember s—). However, aging and memory loss do not automatically equate to the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. After all, how many of us find ourselves in the kitchen only to wonder what we’re looking for? Most likely, it isn’t due to Alzheimer’s. We are most likely distracted by other things we’re thinking at that time. Most often, other diseases with symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer’s are considered and ruled out before the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is determined. Before I go much further, I should tell you that I have no formal medical education in the study of Alzheimer’s. Anything you read right now is based solely on personal experience, which has pushed me to find out more about this insidious disease.

So, for the moment we go back to the basics, “What the heck is Alzheimer’s?” Simply put, it is a disease that initiates in the brain. Individuals and families first notice a difference in short term memory. As the disease progresses, confusion, speech and mobility also become slowly impaired.Normally, Alzheimer’s will not result in death, but may contribute by affecting other organs such as the lung or kidneys. This is a very simplified medical description of Alzheimer’s. How to understand and cope on a daily basis may be of greater importance to those living with Alzheimer’s.

Like I mentioned previously, I am not a medical professional. Alzheimer’s first introduced itself to me when my aunt and then my mother were diagnosed. The past few years (since our “semi-retirement”), my husband and I have been working directly with Alzheimer’s patients and their families in their homes. To watch the progression of the disease and the effect it has on not only the individual but also their spouse, family and friends, is difficult (to say the least) but can also provide snippets of joy and laughter for everyone.

For many, the Las Vegas area is a popular retirement location. Those who choose to retire here often leave behind family and long-term friendships (natural supports). However, they contribute to our community by purchasing homes and utilizing local retail stores, entertainment and medical professionals. The question: How does our community support these same people when Alzheimer’s enters their lives? Remember, these same people have supported our community for many years. Are we doing all we can? Is this a population that has been overlooked by many of us, and if so, why? How can we make things better for this ever-growing population? These are just a few of the questions that I hope to address in future articles. In addition to answering some of these rather “black and white” statistical questions, I’d like to include personal bits of experience shared by you, the reader, and also other information I’ve discovered both personally and by other written articles by those affected with this disease.

Your input is important. If your life has been affected by Alzheimer’s, please share the good and bad. If you have questions, please share them. Perhaps some of your questions can be answered and, most importantly, we can all raise awareness!