No matter what your age, chances are you know or will know a family member or neighbor with Alzheimer’s in your lifetime. Alzheimer’s is a neurologic disease that affects memory in the brain. On August 31st, UAB Medicine hosted a webinar discussing Alzheimer’s and how it is diagnosed along with how UAB Medicine is working toward learning more about the terrible disease.
The webinar started with Erik Roberson, MD, PhD who discussed what Alzheimer’s disease is and risk factors associated with the disease. Aging is the strongest risk factor for Alzheimer’s along with gene variants and amyloid hypothesis. Alongside risk factors, Roberson also discussed how we diagnose Alzheimer’s disease through the use of biomarkers.
UAB Medicine recently started a new exploratory Alzheimer’s disease research center that looks at the risk of Alzheimer’s based on where someone was born as more people in the deep south are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Along with the new exploratory research center, UAB Medicine has also started a new study called the “BAMS”(Brain Aging & Memory in the South) study. Volunteers who live in the deep south will come in for cognitive testing, MRI, amyloid and tau PET, as well as other tests.
Other speakers such as Suzanne Lapi, MD, PhD, Jonathan McConathy, MD, PhD, and David Geldmacher, MD, spoke on a variety of other factors that affect Alzheimer’s such as advanced imaging facility and cyclotron facility at UAB Medicine, nuclear medicine imaging study, and emerging therapies and memory clinic services.
We were interested in speaking with Momentum alum, Teresa Shufflebarger, who has first hand experience with Alzheimer’s disease and has shared some insight into how it can affect someone’s life. Teresa is currently the Chief Administrative Officer for Live HealthSmart Alabama, an initiative seed funded and incubated at UAB Medicine to create partnerships working collaboratively to decrease the incidence of chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Her relationship with Alzheimer’s disease is through her stepmother who is in the late stage of Alzheimer’s, having been diagnosed over ten years ago. When asked how Alzheimer’s has personally impacted her life she discussed how Alzheimer’s can affect the lives of each and every family member as you care for the patient but also care for the primary caregiver. Each new day is the best that you will see for your loved one due to the degenerative nature of the disease.
Teresa left us with some important advice on caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. “Find support where you can. Do not be embarrassed to let friends and acquaintances know of the struggles you are encountering. You can’t believe how people want to help and want to support you.”
Contributed by Carrie Davis