Tag Archives: Alzheimer’s

Hemochromatosis Screening Awareness Month

Hemochromatosis Screening Awareness Month

It’s Hemochromatosis Screening Awareness Month, and hemochromatosis is an inherited disorder where your body accumulates too much iron.

Patients usually don’t show serious signs until they’re over 40 years old, so it’s important to get screened in routine blood tests.

Hemochromatosis is especially common in those from European ancestry, affecting approximately 1 in 400 of them. Talk to your doctor about when you should be screened.

Blood Test Screenings

 

If you suffer from hemochromatosis, your body absorbs too much iron from your diet, as much as 4x too much, and since your body only has a few ways to get rid of iron, it accumulates over time in your liver, bones, joints, pancreas, and skin.

Getting Screened for Hemochromatosis

 

The extra iron in your system can cause organ damage, and iron deposits can darken your skin. It can also increase your risk of diabetes, heart attack, arthritis, and some cancers.

Risks of Hemochromatosis

 

The wrong level of iron in the brain has been tied to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis.

Brain Disease and Hemochromatosis

 

Symptoms of hemochromatosis include chronic fatigue, joint pain, especially in your knuckles, memory fog, an irregular heartbeat, and abdominal pain.

Hemochromatosis Symptoms

 

Getting iron levels down with therapeutic blood removal, or phlebotomy, is the most common treatment. Regular blood donations and a hemochromatosis-friendly diet can help you lower iron levels.

Hemochromatosis Treatment

Love Story through Alzheimer's

Chasing Health: Member’s Love Story of Caring for Wife with Alzheimer’s

As a writer, I get to interview all kinds of people about all kinds of topics, and sometimes I come across a story that gives me goosebumps.

Earlier this year, I interviewed Cary Ulrich, a member who lives in Washington, for the spring issue of House Calls, one of our Medicare newsletters. This former drafter and current fire photographer was kind enough to share his heartfelt story with me.

Cary’s wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago and passed away after we published this article. But for nearly three years, Cary was her primary caregiver, a tough task for a person watching someone he loves suffer from a disease that does not yet have a cure.

I don’t know if I could handle it, but Cary did. And he even found a way to make something positive out of it. Today, Cary leads caregiver support groups and is writing a book to capture how grateful he is for the time he spent with the love of his life.

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, and with Thanksgiving coming up, I think it’s the perfect time to share Cary’s story of being grateful while making sacrifices. Maybe it’ll inspire you to join the cause to end Alzheimer’s or thank a caregiver.

Take a Minute to Care about Caregivers

Cary Ulrich, a second-year Health Alliance Medicare member, likes a challenge. The one-time drafter and surveyor at an engineering firm went from designing layouts for Wenatchee Valley’s buildings and subdivisions to taking photos on the frontlines of wildfires.

The toughest challenge he faced wasn’t learning the art of drafting by hand before the drafting world went digital, and it wasn’t going out on his first fire call to take pictures of people putting their lives on the line to save others. It wasn’t even a challenge he enjoyed, but it was his most important, being a caregiver for one of the people he loves most, his wife.

Sharon Ulrich was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (a type of dementia) after showing some confusing symptoms, like having visions of everything from Old English-style visitors to spies and people trying to break into her home.

At first, doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Was it depression? Dementia? And if she had dementia, what kind was it? At 63 years old, she seemed too young for that.

While doctors looked for answers, Cary stayed by his wife’s side. From her earliest symptoms and first diagnosis in March 2010 to moving her to an adult home in February 2013, Cary was a caregiver. And he quickly learned that being a caregiver can take its own toll.

“I was on the outside going through everything,” he says. “I was very frustrated and angry at the situation, not at her. I had all those feelings, and no one seemed to care about me.”

He watched his wife’s health get worse while knowing he couldn’t help her get better. The woman who’d walked past his back-row church pew almost two decades ago, the one he thought was way too classy to ever even talk to him, now needed him to be her caregiver.

Cary and Sharon

“It’s a hard process,” he says. “I don’t exactly know how I did it, but I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve had to let go of what was and just totally accept her for the person she is now.”

Cary never backed down. Instead, he used his experience of caring for a loved one with dementia to help others do the same, turning his negative situation into something positive.

Today, Cary helps run two caregiver support groups, one specific to dementia at the Grief Place of North Central Washington and a more general one at Aging and Adult Care of Central Washington in East Wenatchee. In both groups, Cary gives support and tips to other caregivers because he believes it will help them feel better and make smarter choices about their own loved ones.

“The more you know when these things happen, the more you can kind of accept them,” he says. “You know you’re going to have to change because your loved one has changed and can’t go back the other way.”

He also talks to nursing classes at Wenatchee Valley College and to first responders in different fire districts to help them know how to work with people with dementia and the family and friends who care for them.

Cary takes on other challenges, too, like helping put on the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Wenatchee. Last year, he lined up sponsors, set up, and took photos for the 2-mile event that raised money and awareness.

Wenatchee's Walk to End Alzheimer's

Cary’s selflessness shines through in everything he does, and the man who likes to take on challenges and still goes out on fire calls hopes to make caregivers’ lives less challenging in the future.

“As a caregiver, you have the memories of what was, but all you have is what is. It’s a very difficult place to be. I know what these caregivers are going through, though. And I want them to know they are valued and can still enjoy life.”

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Discovering Effective Alzheimer's Disease Treatments

National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month

This month is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. Take the Purple Pledge to support people facing it today.

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The first trial that’s trying to prevent Alzheimer’s before symptoms start is happening now from BBC News.

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It’s important to know the signs of Alzheimer’s to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Intelligence Therapy

 

This touching story from the New York Times Magazine will remind you why we must end Alzheimer’s.

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Find facts and figures and resources, or find a walk to support a cure.

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Studies like this one are working hard to figure what exactly causes Alzheimer’s, from The Economist.

MRI Image Brain On Black Background

Doctors and scientists are getting close to effective treatments in the journey to end Alzheimer’s, from Forbes.

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Community Care

Vantage Point: North Central Washington Cares

At a North Central Washington event I heard someone say, “Show me a community, a place where people care for their elders, and I will show you a good place to live.” Whether I am going to a senior networking forum in Chelan, Douglas, Grant, or Okanogan counties, conducting Medicare education, visiting one of our provider offices or collaborating on a fun event, I find NCW continues to grow as a place that recognizes, respects, and strives to enhance the quality of life for our seniors.

I recently had an opportunity to listen as Bruce Buckles, Aging and Adult Care of Central Washington’s executive director, presented on federal and state policies that impact seniors and adults with disabilities. Afterwards, I realized that with a rapidly aging population, as well as the daunting costs of diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, it is more important than ever to support programs that care for and benefit the aging.

We can’t always control what happens with laws, but on the local level, it’s a privilege for Health Alliance Medicare to partner with lots of outstanding, proactive agencies in caring for our seniors.

This month, Health Alliance Medicare is honored to join many other Grant County senior networking agencies to hold the inaugural Columbia Basin All-Senior Expo and Picnic. The free event will include a catered lunch, fitness demonstrations, raffles, door prizes, education, and fun entertainment all to celebrate Grant County seniors.

I have a favorite saying, “Regard the small as important and make much of little,” so I was excited when I saw a toddler, just starting out in life, looking up at a stage taller than herself and mirroring the steps of seniors at a Stay Active and Independent for Life geriatric fall prevention class during a recent health fair.

May we always look up to our elders, recognize and respect what they have to teach us and remember we are also aging and have the power today to help strengthen our communities by making sure we have adequate resources, programs, and health care. If we can do that, there is no doubt NCW will continue to thrive as a good place to live and age.

Alzheimer’s Disease Brain

National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Caregiver Month, so on social media, we gave you more info on the disease each day.

In the U.S., there are more than 15 million Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers. Give these people a big thank you! And learn how to join in the raising awareness this month.

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s Disease, and every 67 seconds someone in the U.S. develops it.

There are approximately 500,000 people dying each year from Alzheimer’s, and it’s the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S.

1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. These numbers could triple with the baby boomers unless we make breakthroughs to prevent or treat it.

Alzheimer’s is the most expensive condition in the nation. The cost to America in 2014 will be $214 billion. Nearly 1 in 5 Medicare dollars is spent on those with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Almost 2/3 of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. In her 60s, a woman is more like to develop it than breast cancer.

15.5 million caregivers provide 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care for Alzheimer’s victims. More than 60% of them are women.

Find a walk, other ways to help, or more info.

Remembering with Alzheimer’s

Vantage Point: Sometimes Behavior is not a Problem, it is a Message

My grandmother died of Alzheimer’s over 15 years ago. I still remember my family’s denial. We couldn’t agree on her course of care, and it cut like a knife when she no longer recognized us.

Alzheimer’s is the third-leading cause of death in Washington. Yet current resources are treating less than five percent of those suffering. Recently, I attended an excellent presentation by Bob LeRoy of the Inland Northwest Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Bob provided some staggering data which showed in comparison to diseases like diabetes, cancer, and HIV, Alzheimer’s receives the least funding for research. Yet it has grown the most drastically.

Nationally, more than five million people live with Alzheimer’s. With 10,000 people turning 65 every day, that number will grow quickly. Alzheimer’s has become the most expensive disease to treat in America and yet still lacks resources for support. Most caregivers of those diagnosed are unpaid family members.

Sadly, since my grandma’s time there have not been major strides in awareness, education or advocacy. But there are those trailblazing a path of hope. The Inland Northwest Alzheimer’s Association has a vision of a world without Alzheimer’s, where through research they can provide and enhance care to support all affected and reduce the risk of dementia through promoting brain health. Current resources include:

• Online workshops – Know the Ten Warning Signs
• Alzheimer’s Navigator – Help creating custom plans
• Community Resource Finder
• ALZ Connect – Networking with others who care for people with dementia
• Care Team Calendar – For coordination of responsibilities among family and friends
• Safety Center – Information and resources for safety in and out of the home

Find these resources at ALZ.org, or you may call 800-272-3900 for a 24/7 helpline.

Want to get involved? ALZ.org can help you find information on a 2014 Walk to End Alzheimer’s event in your area. In Douglas County, it’s a good idea to register your loved one on the Vulnerable Persons Register to help emergency responders assist and better meet their special needs. Find more.

Health Alliance Medicare encourages its members to take advantage of their comprehensive wellness benefits and in doing so hopes any signs of dementia can be identified early.  Until there is a cure taking action can help ease the pain of Alzheimer’s, both those for those who cope with the disease and those who care for them.