More than 5 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s, including 20,000 people here in Montana.
Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia and over time it robs people of their memory, their ability to communicate and their ability to respond to the world around them. The disease carries a heavy burden for family members, too, and according to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 16 million people are serving as unpaid caregivers, including approximately 49,000 here in Montana.
As the number of people suffering from Alzheimer’s continues to grow, the Alzheimer’s Association is trying to educate more people about it. As part of that effort, it’s hosting three educational programs in Whitefish and Columbia Falls. Lynn Mullowney Cabrera, executive director of the Montana Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, said the series is meant to inform those who have been diagnosed with the disease, caregivers and anyone else who is interested.
“Too many people live alone with this isolating disease,” she said. “But we hope by getting this information out there that people will realize that they are not alone.”
The series kicks off at the Whitefish Community Center on Feb. 6 at 1:30 p.m. with a presentation titled “Understanding Alzheimer’s and Dementia” that will discuss the differences between the conditions and the warning signs. On Feb. 27 at 1:30 p.m., there will be a talk titled “Effective Communication Strategies” to help caregivers learn to decode messages through attitude, tone of voice, facial expressions and body language at each stage of the disease.
On March 19 at 12 p.m., at the North Valley Senior Center in Columbia Falls, volunteers will present a discussion titled “Know the 10 Warning Signs” that will let family members and caregivers understand some of the most common challenges of the disease, including repetition, paranoia, anxiety and aggression.
Thane Kraut will give some of the local presentations. He’s volunteered with the Alzheimer’s Association since 2009 when his wife was diagnosed with the disease. She died in 2013. Kraut said an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can have far-reaching impacts and consume a family’s life. He said the information he plans to present will help caregivers and families better address the disease, but more than anything, he hopes the presentations offer a level of comfort.
“The most important message I bring is that you’re not alone in this,” he said.
RSVP’s are encouraged. Please call (800)272-3900 or register online at alz.org/crf.