JT Hunter, Physician’s Outreach Specialist with the West Virginia Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association was our guest in this season’s second episode of "Volunteering in West Virginia."
The association helps those diagnosed with the disease, as well as the caretakers. They advocate for legislation to improve the care, educate, offer support and collaborate with professionals.
If you’re not currently affected by Alzheimer’s in some way, there is a good chance you will be. There are more than 38,000 people in West Virginia right now living with Alzheimer’s. Hunter believes this number is underreported. Part of that underreporting is because 50% of people who have Alzheimer’s might not know it. Alzheimer’s is frequently referred to as “Old Timers” disease. However, an estimated 4500 people in West Virginia with Alzheimer’s are in their 30s, 40s and 50s.
Some forgetfulness is normal due to stress of modern life or being overwhelmed. The difference being that walking into a room and forgetting why you walked in, and then remembering it later, is normal. Not remembering it at all is Alzheimer’s.
Other signs that are not normal healthy age-related issues:
- Refers to items with other names like “hand clock” for watch.
- Getting lost going to a familiar place and then not being able to get home. The part of the brain that retraces steps is damaged.
- Loss of interest in things you used to love. For example, someone who was an avid sports fan may not like to watch games now. That may be because it’s difficult to follow the rules now. (Hunter warns that this symptom could be mistaken for depression.)
- Having a hard time managing a checkbook.
- Change in mood or personality. Quickly going from laughing to crying.
- If you suspect a loved one has Alzheimer’s, please call your primary care physician or call the Alzheimer’s Association.
The cause of Alzheimer’s is not known. A person may live another 20 years after first diagnoses of the disease. It is a slow progression to dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association can help you and your love one adapt to new ways of doing things.
There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Association.
Possible volunteer positions include:
- Community Educator – The Alzheimer’s Association provides education and materials to trainers in small communities to share information with people in their community. This is a one year commitment.
- Support Group Facilitators – People tend to feel more comfortable hearing information from someone who is a neighbor or friend because that person is more likely to know the community and know how to find resources.
- Community Representative – This person recruits other volunteers to help bring more awareness of the disease to your community.
- Walk - "The Walk to End Alzheimer’s"
- The Longest Day – Do something you love to raise funds for research.
Training is provided for all volunteers. The association will make sure you are trained, supported, equipped, and comfortable before doing any presentations. If you are interested, visit Volunteer.alz.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-272-3900.
See this episode here
. In this episode we also talked to Michelle Lewis from the YWCA. She shared about “Over the Edge” and other volunteer opportunities with the YWCA, learn more here.