Bob Le Roy, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association, Washington State Chapter, talks about Alzheimer’s.
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*The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.
And Welcome back to the program everyone. I am here with a very special guest, Mr Bob Leroy, who is really the executive director of the northwest, or Seattle chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. So you are a very, very busy guy with all the things that are happening in all the good work that you do. Welcome to the program. Thank you very much. I’m so pleased to be here. Well, we’re glad you’re here because I heard is really startling statistic from a care manager not too long ago on the program that it is expected that now one out of every three senior dusks are related to Alzheimer’s or dementia, and I am blown away by that statistic. That’s correct. It really is nothing less than a public health epidemic when you consider the number of people that are already touched by the disease and the number that we expect will be really within the next few years. The age wave is here. People are living longer and many of them are are living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of demension, and it blows my mind, Bob, to think that all the people around me that I love, that one out of every three of them are going to be afflicted, you know, with that disease and you know, I’m thrilled at so many breakthroughs that are happening and it’s our hope, as you know, as baby boomers, that hopefully they’ll be a lot more breakthroughs that will happen, and that’s in part a lot to the work that the Alzheimer’s Association does and I’m so thrilled that there’s organizations and resources that you guys have and I know that we’ve had former Seahawk Joe Tafoya on the programs and Joe is amazing, but he told the story about his mom, which is so touching, and he talked about just how incredible you guys have been for him and you know, he it was an emotional interview and I could tell you know that really been. You’ve been his support network, so thank you for that. Well, I’m so grateful for for his support. As you know, he has a great deal of passion and he’s focusing a lot of energy on spreading the word and you know, that’s terribly important for us because there are so many people that that need us well, and it’s that don’t know. Yeah, and it’s also something that a lot of times you have a loved one that has Alzheimer’s or dementia, but you don’t talk about it. It’s like almost been a bagg badge of shame for some people, you know, like I don’t want to talk about my art, you know, have my mom around somebody, because it’s embarrassing. And the courage that it is taken for a public figure like Joe, who is out in the community and has done so much for the community, to bring his store every public it’s been so amazing for so many people to be able to talk about it. Well, it’s an active love and an active courage. There is still a great deal of stigma associated with the disease. It is, after all, the form of mental illness right what we are seeing, though, is that as more and more people are being touched, more and more people are are interested, willing, even anxious to come forward with their questions and their concerns, looking for help. Absolutely and you know, I’m sure you guys have amazing resources when it comes to prevention or do studies like information that comes out that people can get a lot of information from your organization. We do offer a great deal of information I will tell you that that, sadly, although the state of the science is very exciting, we do not have any means to effectively treat or prevent or cure the disease. And so for us it’s really about helping people understand that it isn’t about dying from Alzheimer’s, it’s about living with Alzheimer’s and there are a number of things that can be done in the good company of loved ones and organizations like ours, to preserve quality of life. Yes, period of time. Absolutely, and and I am can imagine also that you support the caregivers, of of those that are taking care of those with their Alzheimer’s. Absolutely a big part of our work is focused on caregivers, about seventy two in some communities even eighty percent of whom are unpaid family members. Yep, Yep. Well, I was one of them. I remember back in the day taking care of my mom and I was so concerned about getting everything right and she was talking to a nurse and the nurse as to a question and she totally said the wrong thing and I so immediately I corrected my mom and the nurse was very nice. She took me aside and she said, Suzanne, the truth at this point in their life is pretty much irrelevant. You don’t worry. Honestly, I think one of the most difficult things for loved ones who are caregivers is taking logic out of the conversation. Right, you just have to find a way to be where your loved one is. So, you know we’re using these terms dementia and Alzheimer’s is. You know we I know there’s a difference, but can you explain to everyone what is actually the difference between the two? Well, if you think of dementia as a kind of umbrella term for a category of symptoms, all of which impact one’s ability to live and function normally. Right, Alzheimer’s is the most prevalent form of dementia, but there are probably over seventy different identified forms of dementia. Oftentimes, and we’re seeing more and more of this, people will have more than one form of dementia, for example, Parkinsonian Dementia, the the right Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s dementia are becoming is becoming more common. Well, and what I have noticed to with seniors, and I’m sure that’s been a lot of studies is whenever there’s a chemical imbalance with the senior, whether it’s depression, whether it is uti, symptoms of dementia can escalate. I’m sure. So it’s obviously there’s got to be some link to the chemical balance of is that right? Yes, we’re still exploring those possibilities. One thing I will say in terms of dementia’s and Alzheimer’s Dementia is that we believe it’s so, very, very important to seek out and obtain an accurate diagnosis, because some demensias are treatable. Some of theirs, you suggest, may be a function of an infection or an adverse reaction. Right rugs. Yeah, drugs to so it’s very, very important for folks, if they have concerns and reason to believe that there may be some form of dementia developing, to go to a doctor and get an appropriate diagnosis. And we are talking today here with Mr Bob Leroy from the Seattle chapter of the Alzheimer’s Associate Tion, and Bob, I am really interested. You oversee basically the Washington his state areas. That correct? You actually all of Washington as well as Northern Idaho. Oh, that’s amazing. So tell us a little bit about our area. How is dimension Alzheimer’s really affect you know, our population. Will Alzheimer’s disease is currently the third leading cause of death in Washington state. So it is it is a very significant problem and challenge. We estimate that here in Washington there are are about a hundred tenzero people living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. And we were talking about caregivers earlier. On average there are at least three caregivers involved in the care of each individual with dementia. So we’re talking about three hundred and Fiftyzero caregivers, again, most of whom are unpaid family members. But here’s here’s the really disturbing thing. We expect those numbers to triple by midcentury. So we’re not that far away from from having a million people in our state that are either living with some form of dementia or caring for someone. That blows my mind, those diseases. That blows my mind. Yeah, and it’s terrifies me. It’s like are we really as a society when you really think about it? Nobody wants to talk about it and and and you know, everybody kind of like goes on with their life and we, you know, are we prepared as a society to deal with a million people down the road? And we’re really not. There’s not a lot of education except for you and if you, if you take it across the country, we could see as many as sixteen million people in the United States find century living with the disease. So No, we’re not prepared. I’m in courage, though, at the pace with which information and education is being made available, at the pace of the research, at the momentum that we’re seeing, particularly in the federal government, to drive more money to Alzheimer’s research. You know, Alzheimer’s, among the chronic diseases, is really the newest and if you look at the history of other chronic diseases and the way this country has dealt with them, we think a lot about how the country dealt with cancer in the S. for exactly. You know, if you if you if you had cancer in the s, the chances were about fifty that your doctor would tell you my ironically enough, that’s about the the same odds that your doctor would tell you today that you have Alzheimer’s. And part of the reasoning is the same. There’s not enough that can be done. In the s cancer couldn’t be cured. Today Alzheimer’s is can’t be cured. But if we look at the history of all Shime, I’m sorry, of Cancer Treatment and cancer research last fifty years, it’s really very exciting. We’re seeing declining death rates in several different consolutely we have today. So you know, we’re hopeful that if we can maintain the trajectory around concern and awareness, information, education, money for research, that it won’t be that that far down the road when will actually you’ll have a chance to interview the first Alzheimer’s Survivor. That’s amazing. So, but what does the Alzheimer’s Association here? Obviously you have a just an overwhelming challenge here. But what do you do for families? You know, we reach and serve families in a variety of ways. We have an extraordinary service, telephone service. It’s a helpline. It’s available two seven. It is staffed by master’s level of clinicians and and and honestly, they get they get calls ranging from my husband can’t seem to balance the check book to my mom got lost on the way home from the grocery. Yeah, how can you help us as there a support group in my in my neighborhood. Can can you help us find a doctor or clinic? It’s overwhelming, isn’t it? I remember visit a vividly a call from a woman at literally fifteen in the morning saying I can’t get my husband out of the bathtub. You know, what can I do? So that the helpline is is really a gateway, what a reason to to a number of services at supports that are available through us. We also have a great deal of information on our website. That’s great. So we want to try to begin the process of of helping people understand that there is help, there is hope. They’re not by any means in this alone. There’s a you know this from your own experience. There’s this, there’s particular loneliness that comes upon a caregiver when you just who prepares for this. Yeah, so how do we reach you, bat so you can reach us. I mentioned our helpline. That number is eight hundred two seven two thirty nine hundred. Eight hundred two seven two, thirty nine hundred. And what is your website? Website is www dot al Zwa stands for Alzheimer’s Washington Dot Org al Z Wa Dot Org. Thank you so much for being on the show today. You’re very welcome.
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Originally published July 15, 2017