David and I talk about Alzheimer's Disease and how it effects both the caregiver and the patient. We talk about the many free resources that are available from the Alzheimer's organization and what you can do to help. Essential listening for those who have a loved one suffering from this disease.
I'm Larry Barsh. And you are listening to specifically for seniors, the podcast for those of us in the remember when generation
David Chaves Lopez is the bilingual program manager for the Southeast Florida chapter of the Alzheimer's association in Palm beach county, Florida. David has a professional background in clinical research, human and services and public health. His role as a program manager is to provide Alzheimer's association programs and services to communities, organizations, businesses, professionals, families, and individuals living with Alzheimer's disease or any other type of dementia. David raises awareness about brain health informs the public about dementia and makes known the many free programs and services that are available. Thanks for are taking time outta your busy schedule today, David.
David Chaves Lopez (01:26):
No, no problem, Larry, thank you for having me on
We all know someone who's living with a family member or a friend who has Alzheimer's disease. What's the scope of the problem in the United States today?
David Chaves Lopez (01:47):
Yes. that is very true. We, we do know somebody who's dealing with this and it's, it's a public health crisis essentially. An estimated 6.5 million Americans, age 65 and older are currently living with Alzheimer's disease. So this for, for the state of Florida amounts to 580,000 Floridians are being affected.
Is it mostly men or women?
David Chaves Lopez (02:24):
We see that there's a greater risk factor for women in, in developing the disease. And that is due to the longevity that women have in their years compared to men. So the greatest risk factor for outside Alzheimer's disease is age. After the age of 65, we see an increase prevalence of, of Alzheimer's disease. And of course we know that women do tend to live longer than men. Therefore we, we do see that higher, higher number with women,
Right? I know that there's a lot of confusion and people use the word dementia, meaning Alzheimer's disease. Is it all the same or are there different forms of dementia?
David Chaves Lopez (03:21):
There are different forms of, of dementia. So just let, let me clarify that with you because you are absolutely correct. There is a big misconception, a lot of there's not great clarity a as to those two terms and some people may overlap them. So when we think about dementia, dementia is that umbrella term to describe those changes in memory thinking and behavior. So those are dementia symptoms, right? But there are different causes of those symptoms. So underneath that umbrella, we have in different diseases, including Alzheimer's disease. We also have vascular dementia, prote pro dementia dementia, dementia, Lu bodies Parkinson's disease, mixed dementia. So really a number of different causes of those symptoms that we refer to as dementia. Now we speak a lot about Alzheimer's disease because Alzheimer's disease is the number one cause of dementia. We're talking about 60% to 80% of all dementia cases are due to Alzheimer's disease.
I was reading that there is some new research that tells us that Alzheimer's disease in the brain starts long or anybody recognizes any symptoms.
David Chaves Lopez (05:06):
Correct? Correct. That is that is some of the re research that we have been seeing. And a lot of the, the preventive piece in the early detection piece plays a big role in these findings because if we are able to detect these changes that are happening these changes in, in our brains that later on are gonna manifest themselves as those problems with, with the disability of, of thinking of organizing unable to communicate with others forgetfulness memory loss, changes in behavior. If we can perhaps identify that as somebody many years before they actually those to start to occur, then we, we can really hopefully try to, to halt that now as far as medications that can, can slow down the process. Currently the FDA has only approved one, which is a health Aducanumab.
David Chaves Lopez (06:25):
But that one is only effective for individuals who are very, very early on in the, perhaps the mild cognitive impairment phase prior to the actual early stage of dementia. But we hope that other medication will be approved. And like you said, with this research coming out and that we can identify these changes very early on, hopefully somebody can, can now maybe start receiving some treatment to, to prevent that. But again, the, it has to be down the line once we have a medication that has been improved by the FDA to do that,
You mentioned mild cognitive impairment. Is this becoming a diagnosis now?
David Chaves Lopez (07:14):
Yes. Yes, it is mild cognitive impairment. Is that pre pre-Alzheimer's face? We have we're starting to experience some of those changes in, in our memory and our thinking. They, they seem very similar to, it would be a, an age related change, which we all go through. In, in that we forget certain things and, and have decreased ability with our brain as we age, but the mild cognitive impairment phase could, would lead could then lead to, to Alzheimer's disease. It can also lead to a different type of dementia, or because by, by something completely outside of, of a dementia perhaps the effects, the secondary effects of, of different medication, the side effects of those perhaps high consumption of alcohol through, through the lifetime any type of concussion depression as well. But, but we have that mild cognitive impairment phase that we're seeing can be diagnosed, but at the same time, a lot of doctors and a lot of professionals are having trouble with, with really diagnosing that piece. And because it's, it is pretty murky. It is pretty murky.
Yeah. How, how is Alzheimer's disease diagnosed?
David Chaves Lopez (09:06):
So Alzheimer's disease is diagnosed by a, a host of different tests and procedures that, that have to take place. It is really actually a, a, a long process. So what we're talking about here is that a specialist, particularly a neurologist focusing on the is brain diseases would be conducting these tests and these procedures. So they include blood tests all type of other biomarker testing as well cognitive test that, that means the actual procedures of, of understanding somebody's method of thinking and reasoning. We also see that in that process imaging brain imaging is also incorporated in that I look at family history and of course, any type of other past medical history and medications the, the person is taking. So once we, we really combine all of those the neurologists and the specialists are able to then we, it, with a high degree of certainty reach a, a diagnosis. Now, if we are going to find a complete certain diagnosis, of course, that is only available after the person has has passed where we're able to look at the brain, but previously to that at least for a high degree of certainty, we do have those tests and are able to, to diagnose Alzheimer's disease that way.
And we know that Alzheimer's disease is a progressive disease. So it starts with a mild cognitive impairment and then progresses,
David Chaves Lopez (11:20):
Correct. It progresses. And we, we have identified three phases two stages here after that mild cognitive impairment phase, the person would then move to what we call the early stage of our Alzheimer's disease, then the middle stage, and then the late stage mild, moderate, and severe also referred to in the, in the medical field. So those, those three stages are, are the progression of the disease individuals tend to, to spend most of the time in the middle, middle stage. But but really one thing that we say here in the association is if you know, somebody with Alzheimer's disease you really just know one person with Alzheimer's disease because everybody does experience the disease completely different. Now in the different stages, the, the progress of the disease and the symptoms of course get, get worse as time passes the individual starts to lose much more of their ability to perform personal tasks, daily tasks and much more assistance is needed. So, so as you know, Larry this disease not only affects the individual with going through this, this journey, but also those around them, particularly their caregivers. So as this disease progress as this cease progresses and the person is having those changes the caregiver is also in a sense progressing and changing their caregiving abilities and their caregiving strategies, because the disease is changing for everyone.
I want to come back to that in just a minute, but let's get back to the early stages. What should we do when we notice these changes in others or ourselves?
David Chaves Lopez (13:47):
Yes, it is. It is very important to to really know those signs, right. Once we do notice that an individual is having these changes we have to really consult with, with our, our specialist or neurologist to try to find out if this is actually a type of, of dementia and what type of dementia it is or are, are these changes again happening because of other reasons, right? We, we have those other, other factors that also manifest themselves as some type of dementia, but in the end they at such as depression, for example so really being able to, to talk to the doctor and see, okay, these changes are happening to me or to my loved one. Can we do more testing? Can we maybe do more investigation on, on these changes to really get to that early and accurate diagnosis,
But there are also ramifications that aren't met medical financial, legal implications as well.
David Chaves Lopez (15:11):
Absolutely. Absolutely. So not only are you, do you get the benefit of from an early and an accurate diagnosis of knowing what, what is going on medically but also like your correctly mentioning the financial and legal ramifications. So for a, for a person who is going through these changes and, and having Their abilities, for example, to communicate decrease that person really has to start planning are their financial and legal plans start really signing those, those powers of attorneys, those directives healthcare directives now that at this very early stage they're able to do that, and they have the consciousness to really speak for themselves because later on, as we know they won't be able to do that. So that is very, very important.
This is hard for me on a personal basis, as we've talked about. That's why I want to come back to talking about caregivers and the mental and physical stress that that caregivers undergo and where to get help with this, because when you're an early caregiver in Alzheimer's with an Alzheimer's loved one you really don't know where to turn.
David Chaves Lopez (17:04):
Yes, that that's correct. And a lot of families that I speak to a lot of individuals share that with me, the, at previously to knowing anything about the Alzheimer's association, they just didn't know where to turn. They thought that they were alone. And of course you, you would add that feeling of loneliness to the difficulties of, of caregiving, and you really have a very tough situation for, for caregivers. So, so there are many resources and places to receive care and support the Alzheimer's association that is one of our pillars to provide care and support free of charge to, to all caregivers and their families and their loved ones. So we provide free care kind consultations done by my colleagues in, in the helpline who are master level clinicians who can pretty much have a conversation with you, let's say at 3:00 AM on a Saturday there's a difficult behavior that, that your loved one is experiencing.
David Chaves Lopez (18:28):
They can run that with you, give you all the, the tips and, and strategies and, and help you through those difficult moments. So we have that support. We also have or caregiver support groups, which are those meetings where caregivers get to share their, our experiences feel like they're part of, of a group share their successes as well and really connect with each other. We have a an online space also for individuals to connect via the intern net. This is else connected, another program that we have available, and we have educational programs. I, we know that knowledge is power. And when it comes to caregiving, the more knowledge that we know about the disease, about the these, the communication strategies that we have, the progression of the disease, the behaviors the better that we are going to take care of our loved ones. So really lots of, lots of programs, lots of services, again, all free of charge, and anybody can access those by calling our helpline. And that number is 1 802 7 2 3 9 0 0. And you wanna
Repeat that? Repeat that
David Chaves Lopez (20:02):
Again? Yeah. Yeah. The, the help line is 1 802 7 2 3 9 0 0. And that helpline is available in more than 200 languages as well. We have translation services. So really for anybody we are available for you at any time, 24 7. And of course our website also available with more information and programs and services there that is a LZ as in zebra O AZ org
Again, from a personal basis, there are two parts to the caregiver. Support one is when the Alzheimer's loved one can be at home. And one is when you have to make the decision, the awful decision to have your loved one live at a memory care facility when they're living at home, how, how do they, how, how does the caregiver get support help?
David Chaves Lopez (21:30):
Yeah, so at the association, although we do not have, for example the home aids or anything like that, that that type of sort of additional caregiving support at home. Well, we do have it's the ability to, to share information about the local organizations that are currently offering tho those services. So through our community resource finder another tool that we have individuals looking for home aid and, and care and, and assistance at home from, from professionals can find that information locally by typing in their, their zip code and finding that, that list of those pro provider that are in their specific area. But of course the help plan the help plan can also my colleagues there can also assist individuals in finding that information. All you do is all you have to do is call call us, and we'll be able to provide you and connect you with the, those organizations that are providing that in-home service and assistance for caregivers.
And there are at least in Southern Florida, several local daycare centers.
David Chaves Lopez (23:07):
That is very true, very true. We we partner at various daycare centers at all daycare centers, another great resource for, for caregivers to be able to to utilize and many of these these centers are specialized in, in memory care as well. So they can provide that daily engagement and daily activities and provide that that needed respite for all of the caregivers as well. So again, our help plan can connect you with those resources locally.
And how does somebody know when to make that decision when a loved one can no longer live at home? I know it tears your heart out when you leave a loved one at a memory care facility, but often it's either the only choice or the best choice.
David Chaves Lopez (24:17):
Yes, it is. It is very hard. But the several factors have to come into play for that decision. Of course the, the main thing that we always want is the wellbeing of the individual living with dementia. And is the current situation not appropriate for them, or are they not receiving the, the, the care or the specific care accurate care that they actually need from their caregiver who, who can also be really unable to provide that? So different factors ha have to come into play the progression of the disease, the severity of the disease and really it comes down to comes down to the the wellbeing of the individual, the emotional and physical wellbeing of the person, as well as, as the caregiver and really finding if this is the, the best choice or not. So
What can people who are listening do to help?
David Chaves Lopez (25:32):
Yes. so as I, I mentioned all of our programs and services are free of charge, and this is due to the not only to the, the federal and, and state that we receive for programs. But also from the donations of our our community members. I cannot tell you enough how impactful it is when we receive these donations from, you know, from a $5, $10 donation from a, a family who says, thank you so much for this educational program to, to a family or, or a corporation that is able to donate in larger numbers and participate, for example, in, in the walk and Alzheimer's or, or the longest day event because it really does impact so many people the programs and services that we provide are being funded by these donations as well.
David Chaves Lopez (26:38):
So, so individuals can donate through our website, alc.org. They can also, if they want a donation to stay locally in their area can also request that by calling our helpline and mentioning that they want those donations to stay local and they can also participate in, in the local events fundraising and events that we have. So I mentioned the, the walk to end Alzheimer's here in Southeast Florida, we have five different walks. And we have Miami Miami Broward, Boca raton Palm beach and the treasure coast towards the, the fall of of the year, but individuals can sign up at lc.org and they can look for, for the walk to end Alzheimer's and create a team start fundraising. And, and, and, and, and do that at a great activity. We also have the longest day initiative, which is really make your own fundraising activity. If you love to cook for example meals, or if you like to bake cookies and sell those you can do that. If you are an avid cyclist, you can get a group of, of your friends and, and, and, and bride really can stem from anything, even playing dominoes, even crochet really anything that you like to do, you can create your fundraiser and, and your own page, and also donate through the longest day also found on our website, alc.org.
What's your helpline number again?
David Chaves Lopez (28:41):
Yes, my helpline it is the Alzheimer's association 24 7 helpline 1 802 7 2 3 9 0 1 802 7 2 3 9 0.
Did we cover everything? Is there anything else you wanna mention?
David Chaves Lopez (29:09):
Yeah, I just, just wanted to say thank you, Larry, this for this great opportunity. And yes, I encourage everyone to, to be involved. Also we have just just so that the public knows we have partner with the Florida department of elder affairs to create a, a really unprecedented initiative in the state of Florida. This initiative is called all stars, and it an educational initiative where individuals can participate in this 45 minute online program where they will learn the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer's disease, learn the resources that are available in the state of Florida, and really equip them to, okay, what do I do if I know somebody or I myself are experiencing these changes because we really, the intent of this is to make Florida a dementia friendly state. The more people that know about this the more that we can help our community face this, this disease and the better off we're, we're gonna be as a community. So that is all stars and it can be accessed at this website, all stars, a L Z stars that org
David, thanks for the incredibly useful information. And thanks for being with us on specifically for seniors today, I've placed a link to the Alzheimer's organization website on the homepage of specifically for senior is.com. I'd like to urge you to download the free PDF, entitled facts and figures report 2022. It is a 120 page complete report essential to understanding Alzheimer's disease and it's effect on both the patient and caregiver. And I urge you to make a donation if you can. And in the fall, join a walk to end Alzheimer's disease. If you found this podcast interesting, fun, or helpful, we'd appreciate it. If you tell your friends and family and click on the follow or subscribe button, where ever you listen to podcasts until next time, I'm Larry Barsh, and you've been listening to specifically for seniors.
David Chaves Lopez is the Bilingual Program Manager for the Southeast Florida Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association in Palm Beach County, Florida. David has a professional background in clinical research, human services and public health. His role as a Program Manager is to provide Alzheimer's Association programs and services to communities, organizations, businesses, professionals, families and individuals living with Alzheimer's disease or any other type of dementia. David raises awareness about brain health, informs the public about dementia, and makes known the many free programs and services that are available. To learn more, visit alz.org or call the Alzheimer's Association 24/7 Helpline at (800) 272-3900.