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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Cell 302-357-7498

Date: November 2, 2011


November is National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month

In 2011, the first wave of baby boomers began turning 65 - the age that your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease begins to increase significantly. Knowing the warning signs of Alzheimer's and getting diagnosed early are vital to receiving the best help and care possible. The Delaware Valley Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association will hold a dementia conference Nov. 17 at the Dover Downs Conference Center in Dover. The annual conference features national speakers and industry experts, including keynote presenter Jolene Brackley, author of Creating Moments of Joy. Afternoon sessions will provide family and professional caregivers tips and tools in dealing with difficult care giving situations, and hands-on experience in dealing with the daily struggles of caregiving. To register for the conference and for more information about Alzheimer's disease, call the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association at 1-800-272-3900 (a 24/7 Helpline) or visit its website:

As many as 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease and that figure is expected to grow to as many as 16 million by 2050. In Delaware, it is estimated that nearly 26,000 Delawareans currently have Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder. "Alzheimer's is a significant threat not only for the nation - but also for the people of Delaware," said Katie Macklin, executive director Delaware of the Alzheimer's Association Delaware Valley Chapter. "With a rapidly aging population at increased risk of developing Alzheimer's, it is vital that Delawareans educate themselves on the warning signs of Alzheimer's disease and the importance of early detection and diagnosis, which gives individuals the power to make choices about their own health and future with Alzheimer's in the picture."

Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia, is a progressive brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and behavior. Individuals with Alzheimer's eventually lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. Most people survive an average of eight years after a diagnosis of Alzheimer's. However, some individuals can live for as long as 20 years with the disease, placing increasingly intensive care demands on caregivers and negatively affecting their health, employment, income and financial security.

"Alzheimer's is not a typical part of aging," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH director. "It gets worse over time and is fatal. Today it is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the nation without an identified cure or way to prevent or slow its progression."

"While there is not yet a cure for Alzheimer's disease, early identification allows the affected person to access medical treatment," said Delaware Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf. "We hope all Delawareans familiarize themselves with the signs and symptoms to help our family members, friends and neighbors age gracefully."

Advancing age is the greatest risk factor, as most people diagnosed with the disease are age 65 or older. When the disease strikes individuals in their 30s, 40s or 50s, it is called younger-onset Alzheimer's. Another risk factor is family history. Those with a parent, brother, sister or child with Alzheimer's are more likely to develop the disease. They have a higher risk if more than one family member has the illness. There may also be a strong link between serious head injury and future risk of Alzheimer's, especially when trauma occurs repeatedly or involves loss of consciousness. High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high cholesterol and other strong links. Studies suggest that plaques and tangles in brain tissue are more likely to cause Alzheimer's symptoms if there is evidence of stroke or damage to the brain's blood vessels.

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, consult a doctor. Every individual might experience one or more of these in different degrees. Early and accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease or other dementias is an important step to getting the right treatment, care and support.

Medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration might temporarily delay memory decline and treat Alzheimer symptoms for some individuals, but none of the currently approved drugs is known to stop or prevent the disease. Certain drugs approved to treat other illnesses might sometimes help with the emotional and behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer's. One important part of treatment is supportive care that helps individuals and their families come to terms with the diagnosis, obtain information and advice about treatment options, and maximize quality of life through the course of the illness.

While a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease can be difficult to comprehend, it allows individuals and families time to connect with available resources and with each other. Early detection and diagnosis provides more time to plan for the future. Persons living with Alzheimer's have the opportunity to be part of the solution and make key decisions around care, living arrangements, transportation, and safety, financial and legal matters.

Know the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer's disease:

To find aging and disability services in Delaware, contact the Delaware Aging and Disability Resource Center by calling 1-800-223-9074 weekdays from 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Staff members can provide personalized assistance to help families find and use community services. The resource center's new website,, helps people to search by county for health services, adult day care, assisted living, caregiver support services, financial assistance, physical therapy, and transportation. A free comprehensive resource, "Guide to Services for Older Delawareans and Persons with Disabilities" is offered through the website or by calling the center.

The Alzheimer's Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research. Its mission is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. For more information, visit or call 1-800-272-3900.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.