Alzheimer's Advice Can Help Everyone - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

05/12/05 - Nacogdoches

Alzheimer's Advice Can Help Everyone

by Donna McCollum

Alzheimer's Disease affects thousands of East Texans. Fortunately, the East Texas Alzheimer's Association continues a decade of service to families wanting information about the illness.

At the 10th Annual Alzheimer's Education Conference on Wednesday the focus was the first steps of early planning and strategies. The advice can help all families.

Caregivers and health providers took a break from their 24 hour day with Alzheimer's. They're just a fraction of East Texans coping with the illness. Association director Robin Dawley said, "We figure between 9,000 and 10,000 people are directly affected by Alzheimer's Disease. This doesn't count the family members."

With any illness, early detection is important. With Alzheimer's this can now happen thanks to the PET scanner available at the Arthur Temple, Jr. Imaging Center. Former director Dr. William Shelton explained, "It's proven that up to 20 years before a patient exhibits symptoms of Alzheimer's with a PET scanner you can make a diagnosis. This is the key to doing it early because then you can be started on the various drugs, treatments designed to slow the progress or prevent it."

Early financial and legal planning is also important. It helps Dee Stephens know when to limit the care for her 89 year old mother. Stephens shared, "At the beginning of this they're able to make decisions a lot easier than later when the decisions becomes more difficult for them."

The Terry Shiavo case clearly illustrated the benefits of early planning. Elder law attorney Rosemary Redmond said since the Shiavo case she has received hundreds of calls from healthy individuals wanting to make future plans. "Anyone 18 years or older can execute advance documents and there are documents for children that parent and guardian can sign if a child is in distress."

Caregivers are already facing emotional and sensitive decisions and they're truly providing lessons all of us can learn from.

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