Though National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month is coming to a close, experts say education on the disease must continue beyond November.
Amanda Nobrega, interim executive director of the Western New York Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, said while most people recognize the disease affects short-term memory and other cognitive abilities, there are myths to dispel, including the common tendency to mistake memory loss for Alzheimer’s.
“There are still a lot of people who do think that memory loss, you know, it may not be Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia,” Nobrega explained. “It could be a vitamin deficiency, it could be a thyroid issue, it could be untreated depression or anxiety. Those things are treatable and reversible.”
Short-term memory loss is an early warning sign, but she added it is not as obvious as it seems. The red flags might be seen in a diligent person who starts misplacing things, or is unable to retrace their steps. Other signs include challenges with planning or problem-solving, difficulty completing simple tasks, and confusion with time or place. Information about warning signs and care options is online at Alz.org.
Nobrega finds most people have questions about care planning and treatment options. As with any terminal illness, Nobrega observed it can be hard for people, especially a caregiver, to see a loved one slip away slowly as a result of this disease.
“You see someone, you know them in one light and then, all of a sudden, this disease changes them,” Nobrega pointed out. “And as the disease progresses, it changes them profoundly. There can be a sense of this complicated grief; that you are mourning the loss of the loved one that you knew, and now you are getting to know them in a different light.”
While there is not yet a cure for Alzheimer’s, she added some options are available to manage the symptoms. For now, drugs dealing with Alzheimer’s are showing promising results, and she’s hoping to hear about studies on the drugs in the coming weeks.
Edwin is a reporter and producer in North Tonawanda, New York. He’s previously reported for the Niagara Gazette and the Ithaca Times. Edwin got an early start in radio interning for WBFO-88.7FM, NPR’s Buffalo affiliate. In 2018, he graduated from SUNY Buffalo State College with a B.A. in Journalism, and in 2022, graduated from Syracuse University with an M.S. in Communications.