On July 1, 1946, the Communicable Disease Center (CDC) opened its doors and occupied one floor of a small building…
November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and Caregivers Month. Former President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in 1983. At the time, fewer than 2 million Americans had Alzheimer’s; today, the number of people with the disease has soared to nearly 5.4 million.
Alzheimer’s is a confounding disease, even for doctors. Salida (Colorado) neurologist Dr. Suzanne Lesage ought to know. Through her role with the Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center, she sees new patients who may be concerned about memory loss. Dr. Lesage also counsel’s others living with the diagnosis on how to best cope with a disease for which there is currently only treatment of symptoms but no cure.
“Dementia is slow in developing,” said Dr. Lesage. “We can offer a diagnosis based on symptoms, but even under the broad umbrella of dementia, there are multiple types, including Alzheimer’s, vascular, Lewy body, frontotemporal and others, and some patients may be living with more than one.”
Even with the uncertainty surrounding dementia, and specifically Alzheimer’s, Dr. Lesage counsels her patients and their families that there are specific steps they should take to ensure the best care for loved ones who are either dealing with a dementia diagnosis or have concerns about the disease:
Be proactive – “At the primary care level, people must be proactive with their doctors,” said Dr. Lesage. “There is a huge spectrum among doctors regarding their comfort level with dementia. Some feel – because there’s currently no cure – that there’s not much they can do.”
“A diagnosis gives hope and clarity to the patient,” Dr. Lesage said. “At least they know what they’re dealing with.”
Free 24/7 Helpline – A referral to a neurologist can lead to a proper diagnosis, she said. The Alzheimer’s Association’s free 24/7 Helpline (800-272-3900) is another resource for direction.
Rapid Referral – Dr. Lesage is a strong advocate for the Alzheimer’s Association Rapid Referral program, which enables doctors to put the individual and their caregivers in touch with a full range of services – all at no charge – that physicians are not able to provide.
Continue living – learn about what can be done with a diagnosis. When we know more, we tend to do more. When we know more, we can adjust accordingly and make decisions that are life giving. “Even if they don’t remember the trip, they can enjoy the day.” Great advice Dr. Lesage!!
Ramona Hunt, M.S. Director of Leadership and Development, Touching Hearts, Inc.