Brain Disease Awareness

When it comes to a game of rummy, Larry Larkin knows how to play his cards right, but ask him what he had for breakfast or lunch, he’ll say, “I don’t remember.”

“Short-term memory’s a terrible issue,” said his son, Bob Larkin. “He doesn’t remember what he asked us three minutes ago so we’re often repeating ourselves. He doesn’t know the day of the week, doesn’t know the month of the year, even what season it is, where we’re going, he’ll ask dozens of times in a row.”

44 million people worldwide suffer from some form of dementia, including Larry. Dementia is a general term for a decline in memory and other thinking skills, severe enough to interfere with daily life, so his son and daughter-in-law now take care of him at their home.

“It’s like having an infant. You’re working around their schedule and have to always be present when they’re screaming, they’re hungry, whatever,” said Bob. “The difference being that you hope you’re child matures and grows out of it but on the other end of the spectrum, we’re going to be caring for him until the day he passes.”

Larry’s wife died last November after suffering for eight years with a more severe – but the most common type – of dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease. In its later stages, Alzheimer’s can cause individuals to lose the ability to speak and to remember their loved ones, ultimately resulting in death.

“There’s no way to cure this disease, treat or slow its progression and people aren’t talking about that and we’re trying to change that,” said Kalyn Visvold, Media Relations for the Alzheimer’s Association. “A woman in her 60s is twice as likely to die from Alzheimer’s than breast cancer, which is crazy to me, because we hear about cancer all the time and we’re just now starting to hear about Alzheimer’s.”

The number of people with Alzheimer’s and Dementia in general is expected to spike as the baby boomers age.

Staff at Naperville’s Silverado Memory Care want to change society’s views on brain disease, which they say begin a life-altering journey for everyone involved but don’t be embarrassed to seek help.

“A lot out of times people forget their family members, they can’t remember their names, they can’t recognize them and they’ll go to the past, places where they’ve lived, things like that so we do go on that journey,” said Mary Ann Pappone, Family Ambassador at Silverado. “They’re not in the real world today. They’re at another place and time in their life and that’s what we uncover for them.”

The chances of Alzheimer’s doubles every five years after 65 years old but early onset is becoming more and more prevalent among middle-aged folks, including those in their 40’s and 50’s.

Key warning signs include:
-Changes in mood or personality
-Confusion about what day of the week it is or where they are and how they got there
-Difficulty reading or judging distance
-Having trouble joining or following a conversation
-Withdrawal from work or social activities

The Alzheimer’s Association will host a walk in Naperville to raise money for research in September.

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