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Alex Preciado, Alzheimer’s Association Volunteer

When we hear the words Alzheimer’s or dementia, we think of memory loss. It’s true that this is the most recognizable symptom. But Alzheimer’s is a disease that is hiding in plain sight, largely because people don’t know about the 10 early signs of Alzheimer’s.

Is someone in your life struggling to solve daily challenges like using the microwave or recording a TV show? Or have you noticed small personality changes, like a slight change in mood, or heightened irritability?

My mother, Julia Gonzalez, lost her battle with Alzheimer’s in 2016. She was a very dedicated and strong human being. Never did our family think that a person with so much strength could be affected by this disease. When our family started to notice simple things such as misplacing items, losing sense of time and trouble completing familiar tasks, we became concerned. We sat down and discussed various plans to start seeking help from her primary doctor, along with other experts who finally diagnosed her with Alzheimer’s. Since our family had the opportunity to obtain a diagnosis, Julia was able to participate in her own legal, financial and long-term care plan while focusing on what mattered most: her family.

In Wisconsin, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death. Nationwide, nearly six million people are living with Alzheimer’s. African Americans are twice as likely as Caucasians to have Alzheimer’s or dementia, and Hispanics are one and a half times as likely.

There are 110,000 people in Wisconsin living with Alzheimer’s. The stigma that comes with Alzheimer’s and dementia often prevents proper diagnosis and makes it hard for families to ask for help. Knowing where Alzheimer’s hides will help us increase awareness of the disease, emphasize the importance of visiting the doctor, and highlight local care and support resources available to families.

To aid in early detection efforts, the Alzheimer’s Association has launched a statewide awareness campaign. Know Where Alzheimer’s Hides seeks to increase understanding of the disease and all of its symptoms, highlight available resources in underserved communities and reduce the stigma of a dementia diagnosis, ultimately leading to better treatment options and increased quality of life for individuals and their families.

Alzheimer’s is a public health crisis impacting the lives of so many of our neighbors–those who live with this devastating disease and the family members who care for them. Individuals with Alzheimer’s should experience the highest quality of life while remaining in their homes. Caregivers must receive the opportunity for much needed respite. Together, we can find a way to change the course of this disease.

We can start today by learning the symptoms at alz.org/Wisconsin.

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