Alzheimer’s in Arizona: There is hope on the horizon for patients, caregivers

Feb 26, 2016, 8:41 AM
(AP Photo)...
(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)
LISTEN: Alzheimer's in Arizona: Hope for the future

Editor’s Note: This is the final of a five-part series looking at the effects of Alzheimer’s in Arizona. Read the other parts here.

PHOENIX -– Arizonans who are young and healthy might not see dementia or Alzheimer’s as their issue.

“I’m 20 years old,” Cody Kacerek said. The tennis coach in north Phoenix added Alzheimer’s meant old people to him.

It’s a fairly consistent answer among young adults. But economist Dennis Hoffman with Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business has a follow-up question:

“Well, how are your grandparents, parents, friends, relatives, co-workers going to be impacted by this devastating disease?”

As a state, the Arizona Alzheimer’s Task Force found caregivers lost $4.58 billion last year.

That’s just in wages forfeited by caregivers helping family members, friends or co-workers suffering with the disease.
Sixty-five percent of those people voluntarily helping others are women.

Now, imagine it’s an 85-year-old woman taking care of her 90-year-old husband.

She asks for anonymity, before revealing that in public her husband is, “a very social, loving person, stopping to talk with people.”

But when they get home, he “is really angry with himself and he’s angry with me because he is losing his memory and we can’t do anything about it.”

Amy Chengalaram, a professional caregiver and educator, said, “I think for our patients… it’s easy… to take out … on their caregiver … because they know that person is going to be there for them.”

She is working on the front lines of caregiving, helping families understand what they’re facing.

“For a lot of families I think it’s learning how to cope … not to fix … but learn how to live with it.”

The good news is Arizona leaders are working locally and nationally to empower families through education and programs.

For instance, U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is co-sponsor of the Hope Act for Alzheimer’s, which has strong bipartisan support. It would create a care-management planning session for all patients covered by Medicare.

“The planning session provides patients and their families with needed information about the disease, treatment options and available medical and community service,” Sinema said.

And, on the medical side of the fight, genomics professor Matt Huentelman at T-Gen in Phoenix is hopeful, “Because I think that, finally, we’re getting the chance to test the drugs that have failed in patients … but, might be really successful if they’re used earlier in the course of the disease.”

In the meantime, Dr. Maribeth Gallagher with Hospice of the Valley is empowering caregivers to cope.

As director of the dementia program, she leads caregivers through mindfulness classes.

She opens with a meditative chime to help caregivers find their center.

“There’s a tremendous amount of worrying that goes on and obviously that has an effect on their mind and their body. And so by coming back into this present moment, they can be grounded and present for what’s going on in front of them,” she said.

One caregiver who lost her husband to Alzheimer’s said, “We all need to reach out every day as much as possibly can to better their lives and enhance ours.”


If you suspect you or a loved-one may have Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, contact any of the following agencies for help in Arizona:

Alzheimer’s Association Desert Southwest Chapter

Arizona Dept. of Health Services

Arizona Center on Aging

Arizona Hospice of the Valley Caregivers’ Support

Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium

Barrow Neurological Institute on Alzheimer’s

Duet

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

ALZ

(Pexels Photo)...
Holliday Moore

How you can join the cause to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s

Studies in Arizona and beyond require many more participants who want to volunteer in helping to find a cure for Alzheimer's.
6 years ago
(Kayla Wolf/Missourian via AP)...
Holliday Moore

Caring for loved one with Alzheimer’s disease weighs heavy on caregivers

While more than five million Americans in the U.S. are living with Alzheimer’s, another 15 million are sacrificing their own lives to care for them.
6 years ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Holliday Moore

Arizona researchers using Colombian village to research Alzheimer’s disease

Two Arizona researchers are using families in a Colombian mountain village to research the affects of genetics on Alzheimer's disease.
6 years ago
(Flickr/Borya)...
Holliday Moore

Arizona doctors work to shed stigma of Alzheimer’s disease, speed up diagnoses

Nearly every minute in this country someone is hearing the words: “You have Alzheimer’s disease" and experts fear it could become a trillion-dollar monster by the year 2050 if it is not stopped within the next decade.
6 years ago
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)...
Holliday Moore

Alzheimer’s disease could become trillion-dollar health care crisis in US

Alzheimer's disease is among the top five killers in Arizona and economists are predicting the malady will soon become a trillion-dollar health care crisis.
6 years ago
...
Wayne Tormala

Epidemic rising? What you need to know about Alzheimer’s in Arizona

This article is Sponsored by Arizona Department of Health Services. At some point, most people have watched an older family member struggle with memory loss or other forms of dementia. As a result, people often incorrectly assume all people will succumb to similar issues as they approach old age. Many also falsely believe all memory […]
6 years ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Alzheimer’s in Arizona: There is hope on the horizon for patients, caregivers