Alzheimer’s Tennessee working to spread awareness

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — September marks World Alzheimer’s Month. A time when people around the world can gather together to raise awareness and also erase any stigma associated with the disease.

Alzheimer’s Disease is described as a progressive and terminal disease that starts in the brain-destroying memory and thinking skills and eventually the ability to carry out the simplest tasks of daily living.

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According to the Alzheimer’s Tennessee webpage 43 million people are living with Alzheimer’s worldwide, including 5.4 million people in America alone. In the Volunteer State the organization states more than 120,000 people are living with the disease.

Kay Watson with Alzheimer’s Tennessee said for every person diagnosed there are approximately four caregivers or care partners in the background.

“Those in our state who are living with this disease would more than fill Neyland Stadium on a sold-out game day, but it takes on average about four people to be a care partner to help that person live with a disease so you would build four more Neyland Stadiums,” said Watson.

Watson also spoke about some of the notable figures in society who have made talking about the disease easier.

“Pat Summitt and Ronald Regan before her, when they’re able to share with their diagnoses you can see how that has given people courage to be able to say, ‘if they can talk about it I can ask questions about what I’m worried about and what I’m feeling,’” explained Watson.

The organization also stated the leading cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s. Keeping that in mind, some symptoms of the disease are listed below from Alzheimer’s Tennessee.

  • Memory loss especially when it comes to recent or important events, names, placement of objects, and other new information.
    • Versus sign of “normal aging”: Periodically and temporarily forget names, appointments, or where you left your keys.
  • Disorientation to time and place. Become lost on your own street or forget where you are, how you got there and how to return home. 
    • Versus sign of “normal aging”: Forget the day of the week or why you entered a room.
  • Struggle to complete familiar actions, such as brushing teeth, getting dressed, preparing a meal, or placing a telephone call.
    • Versus sign of “normal aging”: Sometimes need assistance with an electronic device.
  • Trouble finding the appropriate words, completing sentences, and following directions and conversations. May repeat and call things by the wrong name. 
    • Versus sign of “normal aging”: Occasionally struggle to find the right word.
  • Poor judgment when making decisions, for example, wear several shirts on a warm day or give away large sums of money to solicitors.
    • Versus sign of “normal aging”: Make questionable or debatable decisions at times.
  • Changes in mood and personality, such as increased suspicion, rapid and persistent mood swings, withdrawal, and disinterest in usual activities.
    • Versus sign of “normal aging”: Feel fatigued by work and social obligations now and then or become irritable when a routine is disrupted.
  • Difficulty with complex mental assignments, such as balancing a checkbook or other tasks involving numbers or following directions. 
    • Versus sign of “normal aging”: Make a mistake when balancing a checkbook or leave an ingredient out of a recipe every now and then.

For those who feel they can help the cause, Alzheimer’s Tennessee is always accepting donations and welcoming new volunteers. In the month of September, the group will host their Race Across the State event, highlighting the Silver Alert program. In October, there will also be the annual Smoky Mountains Walk to Make Alzheimer’s a Memory event in Pigeon Forge.