advertisement

For individuals with dementia, early intervention is key

"Every day I'm receiving more calls from families who feel they're at the end of their rope caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's or a related dementia," said Barrington Area Council on Aging Memory Program Manager Pam Pellizzari.

Diagnoses of dementia, a memory disorder caused by a variety of diseases that affect the brain, are on the rise. Dementia is not a normal part of aging; it is caused by damage to brain cells that affects one's ability to communicate, and can affect their thinking, behavior and feelings.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60% to 80% of cases. The Alzheimer's Association of America estimates that 260,000 people over the age of 65 will have Alzheimer's disease in Illinois by 2025, a 13% increase from 2020.

Leaders in dementia care and support, Bacoa and Pellizzari help families understand the importance of both an early and accurate diagnosis and putting together a care team.

"Early diagnosis has many benefits. It helps families plan ahead and involve their loved ones in important decisions about their care, support needs and financial and legal matters," Pellizzari said.

"People living with dementia can live meaningful and productive lives for many years after an early diagnosis. Yet, research shows the average time from when symptoms appear to diagnosis is nearly three years."

According to the Alzheimer's Association, while there is no single diagnostic test to determine if a person has Alzheimer's disease, physicians, often with the help of neurologists and other specialists, use a variety of tools to make a diagnosis.

After a diagnosis, families are often unaware of how to connect with local community resources. Dealing with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's or related dementia can be stigmatizing for both the individual affected and their family.

Bacoa's Adult Day Program, Alzheimer's Support Group, and Memory Café provide mutual support and connection, so families don't feel alone on their journey.

Bacoa's Adult Day Program is a unique program for individuals living with early-stage Alzheimer's and related dementias. The program's model emphasizes the strengths and abilities of its participants, providing a welcoming space where individuals with dementia feel free to express themselves.

Recognizing the benefits of early intervention, Bacoa is working with several community partners to incorporate community education on early diagnosis into their Dementia Friendly Barrington Area Initiative.

"Bacoa is a support system for individuals with dementia and their families. We want people to utilize our knowledge and resources at any stage of the disease," said Terri Channer, Bacoa's executive director. "It's important that we continue to get out into the community and let people know there is help available to them."

For information on Bacoa's Dementia Friendly Barrington Area Initiative; memory programs; or to schedule a memory screening, call (847) 381-5030 or visit www.bacoa.org.