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Florida Memory Disorder Clinics Provide Safety Net for Aging Baby Boomers

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View a related article in Advance for Nurses here

Oct/07/2010

Man/Baby/DogIn 2011, the first Baby Boomers will turn 65 and by 2029, every Baby Boomer will be 65 or older – their mere age alone putting them at increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Fortunately, those living in Sarasota have a local resource that can help people slow – or possibly even prevent – progression of the disease.

Although experts acknowledge the difficulty of establishing clear cause-and-effect relationships, Florida’s network of Memory Disorder Clinics and researchers are working hard to identify possible links between Alzheimer's prevention or disease modification and healthy lifestyle options like exercise, nutrition and cognitive stimulation. Since the Florida Legislature launched its Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative (ADI) in 1985, the state has designated 15 memory disorder clinics – including one operated by Sarasota Memorial Health Care System – to develop an integrated system of dementia-specific services to prepare for the coming increase in number of Florida residents with Alzheimer’s disease.

As a result, Sarasota has a solid infrastructure in place to provide comprehensive assessments, diagnostic services and clinical care and support for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. The clinic also develops training programs and materials and conduct training for caregivers, respite service providers and health care professionals in the care of persons with Alzheimer's disease and related memory disorders.

"We can't know what diseases we'll develop in our senior years, but what we can do is make sure our bodies and minds are at the best possible functional level as we age," said Kathleen Houseweart, manager of geriatric services and coordinator of the Memory Disorders Clinic at Sarasota Memorial Health Care System. "We know that many symptoms of dementia don't show up until much later in life. If your brain functions as well as it can at every point in your life, you may not live long enough to see those effects." 

Mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, describes individuals who have lost cognitive abilities, but have not yet developed dementia.

"In the past, we found that half of those with MCI converted to dementia within 5 years," Houseweart stated. "More recently, studies are saying only one-third of those people convert. How did we change that? I believe we educated people in a way that allowed them to stay healthier and more engaged."

Houseweart has encouraging news for individuals with MCI, who still have the capacity to take ownership of their own health.

"I tell them, 'What's good for your heart is good for your brain," she explained. "That means taking care of yourself with heart-healthy exercises, eating well and staying active with things you enjoy. Engage in cognitive exercise, which can be as simple as conversing with friends and family or as complex as learning a new skill. I remind them that alcohol is a brain toxin and people with MCI need every cell they have to maintain their independence. If you already have cognitive changes, don't drink regularly."

About Sarasota Memorial’s Memory Disorder Clinic
Sarasota Memorial’s Memory Disorder Clinic provides assessments, evaluations and referrals for people and families affected by memory disorders. Training and educational programs are also available to community organizations. Medicare and Medicaid assignments are accepted, and physician referral are not necessary. Our multi-disciplinary team includes neurologists, a neuropsychologist and geriatrician to offer the most comprehensive assessment possible. Our staff is specially trained to provide education to caregivers and to help families find the resources necessary to live with the symptoms of memory trouble. For more information about the clinic, people may call the Memory Disorder Clinic at (941) 917-7197 or visit our website at: http://www.smh.com/p.aspx?p=106

About Florida’s Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative
Florida has the third highest number of Alzheimer’s patients nationwide, according to the Florida’s Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative. Nearly half a million of Florida’s 18 million residents have Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, and that number is projected to rise by nearly one-third between 2010 and 2025. In 1985, the Florida Legislature launched the Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative (ADI), an integrated system of dementia-specific services to prepare for the coming increase in number of Florida residents with Alzheimer’s disease. For information about ADI or the state’s network of Memory Disorder Clinics, visit the Department of Elder Affairs website at: http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us/english/alz_mem.php

Media Contact: Kim Savage
(941) 917-6271

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