The UW Alzheimer's Disease Research Center Annual Public Forum was held on June 5, at the Shoreline Conference Center. The program was sponsored by the ADRC, Friends of Alzheimer's Research, and the UW de Tornyay Center on Healthy Aging. Dr. Linda Teri, director of the Training and Information Core of the ADRC, introduced the program.
The first speaker of the night was Dr. Eric B. Larson on "Changes in How Doctors Approach Alzheimer's Disease: Then & Now - A 25 Year Perspective." Dr. Larson is professor of medicine and medical director of the University of Washington Medical Center. In the last quarter of a century, the UW has been a leader in advancing knowledge and treatment of AD. Twenty-five years ago, AD was primarily diagnosed in individuals who were younger than 65 years of age. Dementia in elderly persons was largely unrecognized, or was referred to as "senility," and considered to be due to normal aging, lack of attention, or hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). The UW Geriatric and Family Services Clinic, established in 1978 by Dr. Burton Reifler and Dr. Larson, was one of the first in the country to specialize in treating older adults with dementia, and it became a model for the development of similar programs across the country. It was also a resource for many clinical research studies on dementia and caregiving. Another major advance in AD research occurred in the mid-1980's, with the establishment of the Alzheimer's Disease Patient Registry (ADPR), a population-based registry of Group Health enrollees, which provided medical, psychological and epidemiological data for studies on diagnostic markers, risk factors and health care patterns for AD patients. In the 21st century, dementia is now recognized as a major disease of aging, with AD being the most prevalent cause of dementia. We now know that increasing age is a major risk factor for AD, and that as many as 50% of individuals over age 85 have dementia. Treatment of AD now focuses on managing and maintaining patient function and decreasing excess disabilities such as depression, anxiety and sleep problems. The UW ADRC continues to play a major role in both research and treatment of AD.
The second speaker was Dr. Heather M. Young on "Choices: Making Decisions about Assisted Living and Long-Term Care." Dr. Young is the director of the de Tornyay Center on Healthy Aging, and research associate professor in the University of Washington School of Nursing. Long-term care refers to an array of services provided in the home, community and in institutions to persons needing help with activities of daily living because of physical or cognitive impairments. Eighty percent of care for older adults is provided by family and friends. However, often circumstances require a transition to an assisted living facility, adult family home, or nursing home. It is important to evaluate the kind of care the person will need before making this transition. When making the transition, it is helpful to develop a plan, accept help and set up the new environment before the person moves in. Once the transition has been made, remember that adjusting to the new environment may take weeks to months. If you are a family caregiver, have a transition plan for yourself, too - you will also be adjusting to changes in your own schedule and responsibilities. It is important to maintain your health, and also to establish new routines and interests. Remember to communicate with the staff and be realistic in your expectations.
Plans for next year's forum are already underway. Remember to mark your calendars, and save the date for the first week in May!