Living with Dementia: Lightening the Load by Guest Blogger Amy Abrams

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” – Confucius

It’s hard to overstate the impact of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia on individuals, families, and communities. There are nearly 65,000 individuals in San Diego County living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, and over 200,000 unpaid caregivers supporting them. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative condition that causes a gradual loss of memory and cognitive function, personality and behavioral changes, and the loss of basic functional abilities. It is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., and the most expensive disease in America today. In addition to its dramatic fiscal impact upon our healthcare and Medicare systems, family caregivers bear heavy physical, emotional, and financial burdens of their own. About 40 percent of caregivers have depression, and nearly 60 percent rate their stress levels as high or very high, compromising both their own health and their ability to care for their loved one with dementia. Age is the primary risk factor for the disease, and as our population ages, the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease is projected to triple by 2050 in the absence of a medical breakthrough that leads to a form of prevention or cure.

We are confident that effective methods of treatment are on the horizon. And in the meantime, as researchers work to move that mountain, we work together to carry away the small stones. There is much yet to be understood about the disease – both its causes and its cure – but there is a great deal that we do know about how to support those who are affected in creating quality of life at every stage. At Alzheimer’s San Diego, we provide a range of free programs and services for anyone who is impacted by memory loss of any kind. For those who are living with the disease, we provide disease education classes, social work services, support and discussion groups, social activities and community outings, Cognitive Stimulation Therapy programs, safety resources, and connections to local clinical trials. Caregivers have access to all of these programs and more, including a wide range of educational classes, workshops, and clinics that focus on practical skill-building, and our Alz Companions respite program. And for the wider community, we offer a variety of education and outreach programs, memory screening services, and information about local research.

Living well with Alzheimer’s disease requires a three-pronged approach: medical and behavioral treatments that address the symptoms, quality patient care, and robust systems of caregiver support. With the generous support of our community, we reached more than 36,000 San Diegans last year, and we will continue to expand that reach until a cure is found.

– Amy Abrams, MSW/MPH
Education & Outreach Manager
Alzheimer’s San Diego

About Alzheimer’s San Diego

Alzheimer’s San Diego is a local and independent non-profit organization whose mission is to provide San Diego families who are affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia with hands-on support, information, and resources while advancing critical local research for a cure. Their team of masters level social workers are available to provide information, education, support, and assistance with community resources. Alzheimer’s San Diego offers a wide variety of education classes throughout San Diego County, support and discussion groups, social and activity programs for persons living with memory loss, and a respite program. All programs and services are provided at no charge.

About Walk4Alz

Alzheimer’s San Diego is a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (Tax ID number 47-5534541), and all funds raised through Windward Life Care’s participation in the October 21st Walk4Alz event directly support programs and services for individuals in San Diego County affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, and local research efforts toward treatment and cure. To sign up or make a tax-deductible donation, visit  Windward Life Care’s Walk4Alz team website.