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Scary Statistics

Perspectives on Alzheimer’s

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WHAT: “Alzheimer’s: Perspectives, Realities, Choices”
WHEN: 3-5:30pm Sat., Sept. 26
WHERE: Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship, 1207 Ellsworth St.
COST: Entry is free
INFO: http://www.buf.org

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Alzheimer’s statistics march like stern soldiers in a never-ending war.

As of 2013, more than five million people in this country live with Alzheimer’s, and that could triple by 2050. It appears to be the most feared disease today, especially among baby boomers. If you consider that it is largely a disease of the older population and that there are about 40.3 million people over 65 years of age in the United States, this means 12.4 percent of people over age 65 have Alzheimer’s disease right now.

More alarming numbers: There are 15 million caregivers who, in 2012, gave 17 billion hours of unpaid care to loved ones. If you put all these caregivers together in one state, it would be the fifth-largest state. 

As early as 2007, my husband, Alan, and I saw cognitive decline in him. The neuropsychologist, however, could not detect it until late 2011. My father had Alzheimer’s. My husband’s mother had it, too. She endured the disease for more than a decade and died a shadow of a person with no physical capacities.

We both knew what lay ahead for Alan concerning this cruel disease. With the proper education and research, my husband became certain that he did not want to live into the indignities of the late stages of Alzheimer’s. Instead, he decided to voluntarily stop eating and drinking while he was still mentally competent.

With the support of a medical doctor and two caregivers, my husband died peacefully at home on April 19, 2013. Seven months after Alan died, I gave a TEDxBellingham talk, “Not Here By Choice.” (You can access it on my website, http://www.phyllisshacter.com.)

At 3pm Sat., Sept. 26, there will be a presentation featuring four speakers at the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship entitled “Alzheimer’s: Perspectives, Realities, Choices.” It will be sponsored by Compassion & Choices of Washington.

At the event, I’ll share my story and go into some detail about the medical and legal preparations for someone who decides to voluntarily stop eating and drinking.

The second speaker is Josselyn Winslow. She and her husband were two of the founding members of the Alzheimer’s Society of Washington. She will speak about how her mother, who had Alzheimer’s, lived with her and her family for some years. She’ll discuss the challenges and difficult decisions they faced when the disease became more advanced.

The third speaker is Tresa Mariotto, the Executive Director of Woodway Assisted Living. She has had many years’ experience working with people with various kinds of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. She will discuss the seven stages of Alzheimer’s. In addition, Tresa will describe what occurs for many residents in the last two stages, after they enter the dementia facility.

The fourth and final speaker is Barbara Green MSW. She develops continuing education programs for professionals in aging. In her work, she provides guidance for using the Compassion & Choices of Washington Advance Directive for Dementia/Alzheimer’s. She will share information about this relatively new and informative Advance Directive.

The presentation will end with a question-and-answer session. We hope to fill all 250 seats at the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship. This free event is valuable for anyone who is concerned about Alzheimer’s—either for themselves, a friend or a loved one.  We hope to see you there.

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