Grand County has three chances to learn about Alzheimer’s this week |

Grand County has three chances to learn about Alzheimer’s this week

Voice of Your Hospital/Eric Murray

Emmalie Conner, Northern Colorado Regional Director for the Alzheimer’s Association, will be in Grand County this week conducting classes on Alzheimer’s disease in both Granby and in Kremmling.

Alzheimer’s education in rural communities is personal for Emmalie, whose aunt died of the disease in a rural area of Tennessee that at the time didn’t have the support groups and the educational programs that are now being made available by Alzheimer’s Association.

“I’ve seen the differences this education can make,” she said.

Education efforts can help a growing number of people affected by the disease including individuals, care takers, businesses, family and friends. An estimated 72,000 Coloradoans will develop the degenerative disease by 2010 resulting in the need for increased awareness and support.

Many people don’t realize that Alzheimer’s disease is the seventh leading cause of death in America. It’s the fifth leading cause of death for those over age 65. The parts of the brain that control swallowing and breathing become diminished as the disease progresses, and that’s what eventually causes the demise of the patient.

“Interestingly we see survivors of cancer and heart disease but you will not see a survivor of Alzheimer’s disease because there are none,” Conner said, explaining the seriousness of the disease, the need for public awareness as well as the need for legislative support. “We hope that through education and advancement of research and medicine we can improve the situation.”

The three programs offered this week are very different. The first class is offered at the conference room at Kremmling Memorial Hospital at noon on Thursday. This session is geared to professional and volunteer caregivers, which can include family and friends. The key lesson of this class involves providing strategies on how to deal effectively through communication.

“There are so many pieces of cognition affected by Alzheimer’s,” Conner said. “One is perception. How you communicate and approach someone is different with this disease because it’s necessary to react to their reality, which can change from day to day”

The second class is offered at Cliffview Assisted Living Center in Kremmling from 2 to 3 p.m., also on Thursday. This session is an interactive workshop developed with baby boomers in mind and with the understanding that the brain is a muscle to be exercised.

“It doesn’t’ matter weather you’re 55 or 85; there is always something people can do to maintain or encourage brain health.”

The final class is offered at the Granby Community Center on Friday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Attendees will learn the difference between normal changes in memory as we age and signs that you or a loved on may be experiencing a more serious memory disorder. Diagnosis processes and available medications will be discussed.

“My objective for all of these programs is that people leave with an understanding of the disease and a sense of reassurance that they are not alone,” Conner said.

She believes that the education classes will provide people with enough information to have further discussions with their family physician. She added that the helpline is available for those affected by the disease. Trained counselors are available 24/7 at 1-800-272-3900.

Lastly, a friendly reminder from Conner for those affected by Alzheimer’s.

“It’s OK to laugh and smile. If you aren’t laughing as you go through this journey, you are going to get very tired very quickly.”

All classes are free. The public is invited to attend all sessions. Transportation to the classes is available from Grand County Council on Aging by calling 887-3222. For more information on any of these classes offered in Grand County this week call any of the sponsoring organizations: Grand County Rural Health Network (887-3064); Kremmling Memorial Hospital (724-3165); Cliffview Assisted Living Center (724-3530); or Grand County Council on Aging (887-3222).

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