LIMA — For each person diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, it's estimated that another three to four others are also affected.These are the families and the friends of that person, the ones who take care of the individual as the disease progresses, according to Salli Bollin, executive director of the Alzheimer's Association of Northwest Ohio. That's a lot of people, making Alzheimer's a top contender in the things-you-don't-want-to-hear-from-your-doctor category. And although there are an abundance of jokes about Alzheimer's and forgetfulness, just what is Alzheimer's and why is it so scary?It's is a form of dementia, and while not all dementia cases are Alzheimer's, a large portion of them are — 50 to 80 percent in fact — according to the Alzheimer's Association website, www.alz.org. Symptoms usually develop slowly and eventually they become severe enough to interfere with daily life.Loss of memory, how to function in day-to-day activities — that's the scary part. But it's also scary that while Alzheimer's affects so many, it's not just the elderly. An estimated 5.4 million people have the disease in the United States, according to the website. This includes 5.2 million people age 65 and over and 200,000 people under 65.And there is no cure, nor a treatment to delay or stop its progression. There are medications that slow down symptoms for about six months to a year, but then only for about half of the patients who take them.So what's being done? Unfortunately, federal research funding hasn't increased in quite awhile, Bollin said. Headquartered in Toledo with offices in Lima and Findlay, the northwest Ohio chapter of the association serves about 32,000 people in the area — that includes those with Alzheimer's and their loved ones and caregivers.What we do know about the disease is this: Alzheimer's, and other forms of dementia, is not part of the natural aging process. Genetics can play a role for people with a strong family history of the disease, but that isn't a definite indicator that someone will develop it, Bollin said.Head trauma, where there is a loss of consciousness, could be a factor, and research is looking at professional football players and war veterans who have suffered head trauma, she said. African Americans and Latinos also have higher reported cases of dementia than other ethnic groups as well, but again, there is no conclusive proof as to why this occurs.There are some things we do know. Exercise helps. So does staying engaged in activities. This means keeping social ties to others, learning new things, keeping the brain active, Bollin said.In the meantime — until research catches up with the causes and the cure — there is support. That, according to Bollin, is something the Alzheimer's Association does very well. However, many people don't know about the organization or the services it can provide.“We're still a very well-kept secret,” she said. “People live with (Alzheimer's) for long periods of time ... if they are struggling, they are not alone. We really want to be there to support them.”Information and support services are the bulk of what the association does. It includes individuals with the disease and their families, although Bollin said people with Alzheimer's are very capable of participating in planning their care. “Just because a person is diagnosed, they are capable of doing things, providing input into their lives,” she said. “They are very much engaged in life.”The association works closely with other local support groups, like the Allen County Council on Aging, Inc. and the Area Agency on Aging 3. These organizations provide direct services, including caregiver respite, transportation and an elderly day care center.Although all the elderly — not just those people with Alzheimer's — are served, raising awareness about the disease is an important goal, said Jacqi Bradley, executive director of the Area Agency on Aging 3. The agency covers seven counties in northwest Ohio, including Allen County and the six counties surrounding it. Diane Bishop, executive director of the Allen County Council on Aging Inc., said services are provided in an effort to help those with Alzheimer's and all elderly people, remain as independent as possible.But if you do suspect that you or a loved one may have Alzheimer's, Bradley said it's imperative to see a doctor as soon as possible.“Go to your health professional, see what it is. Make sure,” she said. “The sooner the better.”According to the Alzheimer's website, some of those symptoms to be on the lookout for include memory loss that disrupts daily life, challenges in planning or solving problems, confusion with time or place and difficulty in completing familiar tasks.
Tara Cutlip, 21 and pregnant with her second child, was shot and killed Saturday in her Bahama Drive home. Loved ones gather in front of Tara's home to remember her and speak out against domestic violence.