Cambrian: Opinion

John Brannon: Panel shares information, suggestions about Alzheimer’s

John Brannon writes about Cambria life weekly in The Cambrian.
John Brannon writes about Cambria life weekly in The Cambrian.

About 40 people gathered at Cambria’s Gym One for an informational workshop presented by the San Luis Obispo County office of the Alzheimer’s Association, California Central Coast Chapter, on Saturday, March 20. Following a light lunch provided by Linn’s Fruit Bin and Family Home Care, a panel of experienced experts discussed the subject of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Following that portion of the program, a question and answer segment designed to enlighten those in attendance and answer any questions they might have was provided.

Hosting the event was Arlene Stepputat, program director for the California Central Coast Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Members of the panel included:

Joining this valued board were Barbara and Mel Schwimmer of Cambria. Since Barbara’s diagnosis several years ago, the Schwimmers have been clients, volunteers and advocates for the Alzheimer’s Association; Mel is now on the Board of Directors. They are deeply involved in the need for clinical research trial participation. They bring their very personal experience with Alzheimer’s disease to those who are facing being caregivers for a loved one.

The point was emphasized that it is best if day care is included for both the patient and caregiver. Care giving can be a very stressful, demanding part of the disorder; it is essential that both people be able to find relief and support from involving professional care givers.

It is estimated that more than 5 million Americans suffer from this increasing disorder. As longevity continues to increase, the number of patients continues to expand from this incurable ailment –along with the fact that the decrease of brain cells can begin by age 35. Medications and changes in diet and life styles can improve the condition, but there is no cure at present.

It may be hard to distinguish the difference between age-related changes and the first signs of Alzheimer’s. To utilize the information and services available through the Alzheimer’s Association is a wise decision.

The workshop began with a short clip from an HBO documentary on the subject of Alzheimer’s disease. Featured was an elderly woman in her 80s who demonstrated that life can still be fun —and adventuresome. She laughed and joked freely and sang in a group who visited assisted-living facilities. “I may not remember doing this tomorrow, but I’m sure having fun doing it today,” she said, smiling.

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