Alzheimer's caregiver education provides answers to needs

To give background on the disease and to kick off the monthly group, Massurin bared the facts of Alzheimer's during a caregiver support group on Sept. 3 that was sparsely attended, but helpful to those who came out.

"I know there is a need out there," said Mary Kimberly, residential care director at the Athenaeum. "I hope people will take advantage of it."

While dementia is not a disease, it is a set of symptoms. According to Massurin, 70 percent of people with dementia are eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

Most of those who are affected by Alzheimer's are still functional and living in their own home and have caregivers to help them with daily tasks. Those caregivers could be their siblings, children or grandchildren, but an affected person may not know who those people are because as the disease worsens the most recent memories are, to a point, deleted.

"People with this disease often don't know it. What makes this one a lot worse is when you get to the end of life, you really only have your memories ... and with this disease that's all gone," Massurin said.

The lifespan of someone with Alzheimer's is on average from nine to 12 years following proper diagnosis. However, some people have been known to live for up to 20 years. According to Massurin, it all depends on the health of the person who has the disease.

"Someone who is young and fairly healthy could live up to 20 years," he said.

It is estimated that for every one person who has Alzheimer's, there are three people caring for them. Kimberly hopes that by holding the support group once a month, those who need and want support are able to find it, regardless if the group consists of one person or a roomful.

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