COLUMBIA — Even though Alzheimer's disease has no cure, there are benefits to knowing if a person has it. At an upcoming event, people can learn about early signs of the disease.
The Alzheimer's Association Mid-Missouri Chapter will host "Know the 10 Signs of Alzheimer's Disease: Early Detection Matters" beginning at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Janie Bonham has been a registered nurse for 36 years. She was an instructor and director of the practical nursing program at Boonslick Technical Education Center in Booneville for 33 years.
When her mother showed signs of dementia several years ago, Bonham didn't see them.
"I'm an RN, but I was totally the daughter," she said. "I didn't want there to be anything wrong with my mom."
"I didn't want to say the 'A-word,'" she said. "I couldn't choke out the word Alzheimer's."
Her mother, Sara Patrick, died of Alzheimer's disease in 2008. The day after the funeral, Bonham went to the Alzheimer's Association to make a donation.
Several months later she began to work for the Alzheimer's Association.
"What I learned was amazing. ... I could have done so many things different," she said. "I could have understood what was going on."
Now, as an Alzheimer's educator, "I can talk the talk, 'cause I walked the walk."
IF YOU GO
WHAT: "Know the 10 Signs of Alzheimer's Disease: Early Detection Matters," educational program
WHEN: 1:30 to 4 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Alzheimer's Disease Educational Center, 2400 Bluff Creek Drive
MORE: Registration is required. Go to the website or call 800-272-3900. The event is free and open to the public.
Source: Alzheimer's Association Mid-Missouri Chapter
For an early-detection checklist for Alzheimer's disease, go to alz.org/national/documents/checklist_10signs.pdf
The event will explain the differences between normal memory problems and those caused by dementia, said Janie Bonham, early-stage Alzheimer's care consultant and educator for the local organization.
Participants will have time to ask questions and will receive printed handouts to take home.
The meeting is sponsored by the Chi Omega sorority and Delta Upsilon fraternity at MU.
Alzheimer's disease affects memory, thinking and, eventually, the ability to perform daily tasks, according to the National Institute on Aging. Between 2.4 million and 5.1 million Americans are estimated to have the disease.
Bonham offered examples of how memory issues differ for people with dementia. Usually, when people forget a date, they eventually remember it, she said. Or when they lose their keys, they find them.
For a person with Alzheimer's, "that's not possible to do."
At past events, the majority of people came out of concern about another person. Others were worried about themselves. Some were just curious about the disease, Bonham said.
Bonham is a longtime registered nurse and instructor whose mother had Alzheimer's disease.
Scientists around the world are testing drugs to treat Alzheimer's disease, but no cure exists. Still, there are reasons to find out if a person has it.
People who show signs of dementia will be encouraged at the event to see a doctor for an assessment and diagnosis.
David Mehr, a geriatrician and professor at the MU School of Medicine, talked about the benefits of being diagnosed by a doctor.
People with dementia often have other needs that can be addressed, Mehr said. They can "feel better and be happier in many cases."
"We can provide support to their caregivers," he added. "… Helping the caregivers to understand what's going on and how to deal with difficult behaviors, I think, is a particularly important thing to do."
Other benefits, Mehr said, include:
- Learning whether one's memory loss is due to dementia or something else, such as depression.
- Obtaining treatment, which "may help in some cases slow things down."
- Allowing time for advance financial and legal planning.
- Participating in clinical research, which Mehr does not necessarily advocate.