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Alzheimer’s is just one among dozens of brain-wasting diseases

From Staff Reports

Working with a small staff on a tight budget, the Inland Northwest chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association is trying to spread the word about brain diseases that afflict a rapidly growing number of Americans.

Alzheimer’s disease is the one that draws the most attention, but it’s one of dozens that cause memory loss, changes in mood, behavior and judgment, and an inability to perform routine daily tasks.

“These diseases kill the brain, causing the symptoms that we call dementia,” said Joel Loiacono, the chapter’s executive director. “It takes away peoples’ ability to live independently. And they’re fatal.”

Alzheimer’s is now the third-leading cause of death among adults in Washington, with an estimated 110,000 people with the disease, Loiacono said. In Idaho, an estimated 26,000 people have it.

Nearly one in three seniors who dies has Alzheimer’s or another dementia.

The Alzheimer’s Association works to teach people about these diseases and how they affect family caregivers. According to the organization:

• In 2012, 15.4 million relatives and friends provided 17.5 billion hours of unpaid care of those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

• More than 60 percent of these caregivers rate the emotional stress of what they do as high or very high, and more than one-third report symptoms of depression.

• The physical and emotional toll of caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and dementia resulted in them spending an additional $9.1 billion on their own health care in 2012.

To help, the association hosts support groups and offers free workshops, including these coming up in Kootenai County:

• “Know the 10 signs: Early Detection Matters,” March 13, 2-4 p.m., St. Thomas Parish Center, Coeur d’Alene.

• “Powerful Tools for Caregivers,” a six-week course Thursdays from 1 to 3:30 p.m. starting April 3, Area Agency on Aging, 2120 N. Lakewood Dr., Coeur d’Alene.

• “The Basics: Memory Loss, Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease,” April 9, 3-5 p.m., Hayden Public Library.

To learn more, call (208) 666-2996. On the Web: alz.org/inlandnorthwest.

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