James P. Sutton, a boardcertifi ed neurologist with more than 30 years of experience in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and related conditions, will present “Understanding Dementia” from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tues., Jan. 27 at Senior Concerns in Thousand Oaks.
Seminar attendees will be asked to make a $10 donation.
“(Dementia) typically affects older persons, but it can affect anyone,” Sutton said. “I will be discussing what dementia is, how we make the diagnosis, how we treat it and clinical research currently in progress in Ventura County.”
The biggest myths about Alzheimer’s are that forgetfulness and memory loss are inevitable and untreatable, he said.
“We believe that of persons over 85, one-third have dementia; however, this means that up to two-thirds do not,” Sutton said. “Even though this is a common condition, we no longer view it as normal, inevitable or untreatable.”
Dementia is a general term to describe a decline in mental ability such as short-term memory loss, decrease in judgment and confusion, said Rosemary Flores-Gordon, program director at Senior Concerns.
According to the latest Alzheimer’s Association statistics, she said, women are at the epicenter of the crisis.
Understanding dementia is very different from understanding other diseases, said Andrea Gallagher, president of Senior Concerns.
“Diseases many of us are familiar with generally have a predictable course, and often there are treatment options that can result in a cure,” Gallagher said. “Dementia, on the other hand, can be present for years before we see signs of the disease. Its manifestation can be different by person and even by time of day in the same person.”
There is only treatment for dementia and no cures, Gallagher said.
“Given that one in three seniors die with some form of dementia, all of us need to understand this disease, be aware of the signs and advocate for a cure,” she said.
Despite the fact that so many people are affected by dementia— either directly or indirectly— few families discuss it openly, Flores-Gordon said.
“ We need to discuss the hardship dementia causes in a family; we must dismiss the stigma associated with the diagnosis and learn to speak openly with one another,” she said. “We must understand that Alzheimer’s is the sixth-largest cause of death in the United States, and it continues to grow because we do not have a cure.”
Sutton hopes those who attend his Jan. 27 talk will consider getting tested to see if they might have the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s and seek treatment if appropriate.
“I also hope that they will consider volunteering to help us test experimental new medications intended to change how we treat Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias,” Sutton said.
“As our population continues to age, memory loss and dementia are becoming more and more common,” he said. “If we do not move quickly we will be faced with a public health crisis of staggering proportions.”