St. Lukes wears purple, recognizes Alzheimers Awareness Day Sept. 21

Published 3:46 pm Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Turning every light in the house on at 4 a.m. Making coffee with no filter in the pot. Asking the same question six times because the answer is quickly forgotten. Looking for a deceased loved one over and over again. Suspicious of those around them, they accuse you of stealing their money. Not recognizing their grandchild. Thats a typical day for someone with Alzheimers.

On September 21, St. Lukes Hospital and organizations across the world will unite to recognize World Alzheimers Day. The theme for World Alzheimers Day 2010 is Dementia: Its Time for Action! because Alzheimers disease affects more than four million Americans and millions more of their families and caregivers.

According to the Alzheimers Association, Alzheimers disease is a progressive brain disorder that gradually destroys a persons memory and ability to learn, reason, make judgments, communicate and carry out daily activities. As Alzheimers progresses, individuals may also experience changes in personality and behavior, such as anxiety, suspiciousness or agitation, as well as delusions or hallucinations.

As the disease progresses, behavioral problems are common, explains Dr. Belynda Veser, psychiatrist with the St. Lukes Hospital Center of Behavioral Medicine. Alzheimers patients can become easily agitated and have difficulty with both long and short-term memory, have problems with judgment and begin to have difficulty with such basic daily activities as dressing, eating, grooming and using the bathroom.

Some of the most common problematic behaviors include: agitation, aggression, combativeness, delusions, hallucinations, insomnia, and wandering. Behavioral symptoms may be the result of a treatable problem such as pain, infection, discomfort, and can be treated through both non-pharmacological and pharmacological treatments.

The specialty of geriatric psychiatry is especially trained to treat patients with Alzheimers disease as well as counsel and advise the caregivers of patients with Alzheimers. The geriatric psychiatrist can do the following: perform comprehensive clinical assessments; provide comprehensive treatment and management; and provide consultative services and education regarding mental health problems for older adults. Geriatric psychiatrists also can help family members cope with the psychological toll of care giving.

Its comforting to know that families have access to respectful, compassionate mental health care through St. Lukes Hospital. St. Lukes Center of Behavioral Medicine is a 10-bed facility that treats a spectrum of disorders including: Alzheimers disease, depression, anxiety, adjustment disorder and other early onset dementias. Dr. Robert Ratcliffe and Dr. Veser, both board certified psychiatrists, treat patients of the unit.

Becky Brodar, outreach coordinator for St. Lukes Center of Behavioral Medicine, says that all patients undergo a thorough evaluation, including a psychiatric, medical and psychological assessment. Once diagnosed, patients begin individualized treatment to alleviate those problems that are treatable and to manage those problems that are progressive. In all cases, St. Lukes works to help patients achieve maximum independence. Patients and their families also benefit from their extensive referral network, which works to place patients in the most positive and least restrictive long-term setting when needed.

Access to this service starts with a telephone call. To find out whether an adult 55 years of age or older is suitable for the program, call 828-894-3525 extension 3333. Program coordinators are available to help 24 hours a day. An initial assessment is free and confidential.

To help bring awareness to Alzheimers, professionals through St. Lukes Hospitals Center of Behavioral Medicine will provide free, confidential screenings to detect early dementia on Tuesday, September 21, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at 56 Hospital Drive, Suite 3B in Columbus, located in the St. Lukes Hospital Medical Park. An appointment is necessary, call 828-894-2408.

Join Dr. Veser as she explains treatment options for Alzheimers and offers strategies for managing the disease on Tuesday, September 21 at 6 p.m. in the St. Lukes Hospital board room. Space is limited; call 828-894-2408 to reserve your spot. A light dinner will be served.