Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Presentation puts focus on Alzheimer's and Dementia


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Ironwood — Understanding the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia is important because there are techniques and medications that can treat the symptoms, according to Sundi Taylor, program coordinator for the Greater Michigan Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Taylor gave a presentation Thursday at the Ironwood Carnegie Library called Understanding Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Dementia is an umbrella term. Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia, and it can be a cause of dementia, according to Taylor. The symptoms of dementia are changes in memory, thinking or reasoning.

There are four different kinds of dementia. Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, dementia with lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia, according a pamphlet from the Alzheimer’s Association that Taylor based her presentation on. The main differences are listed below:

Alzheimer’s – Two abnormal brain structures called plaques and tangles are…thought to damage and kill nerve cell. Alzheimer’s disease causes the nerve cells to die.

Vascular Dementia – conditions that block or reduce blood flow to the brain.

Dementia with lewy bodies – abnormal deposits of protein that damage brain cells

Frontotemporal dementia – disorders caused by progressive cell degeneration in the brain’s frontal or temporal lobes.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, not a normal part of aging, said Taylor. “There is no way to prevent, treat or slow the disease. We can only treat the symptoms,” she said.

“There is a new drug that’s in the news,” said Taylor But currently there are three types of drugs that are prescribed for dementia.

Dementia can affect younger people in the 40’s and 50’s and that is increasing, she said. There are also studies being done on the long-term effects of concussions on the brain, such as seen in football players, said Taylor.

Age is the greatest risk factor, although genes play a role too, she said.

One video during the presentation featured a gentleman who talked about how it felt to have dementia. He couldn’t perform as he used to and it was frustrating. Another woman described things like having to constantly change her password because she could never remember it.

Another patient said he lived in the moment and in order to have hope, he could not live in or worry about the future.

The early state symptoms can resemble those of depression, said Taylor. In fact, at first many patients try to hide their losses of memory and abilities, so it can be hard to diagnose.

Lifestyle changes such as exercise and nutrition can help to slow cognitive decline and lower the risk for Alzheimer’s said Taylor.

Taylor’s next presentation will focus on the topic of healthy living for body and brain.

The Ironwood Carnegie Library strives to be “dementia friendly” and has books and props to encourage conversation for use by people with dementia and their caregivers.