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World Alzheimer's Action Day Comes to Utah

PHOTO: Dr. Dustin Hammers is the keynote speaker at the Memory Loss Awareness Conference. Photo courtesy of University of Utah.
PHOTO: Dr. Dustin Hammers is the keynote speaker at the Memory Loss Awareness Conference. Photo courtesy of University of Utah.
September 17, 2012

ST. GEORGE, Utah - This Saturday, September 22, is World Alzheimer's Action Day. In Utah, caregivers will hear from experts at a free Memory Loss Awareness Conference and town hall meeting in St. George. They'll discuss research and therapy techniques for people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

At the University of Utah's Center for Alzheimer's Care, Imaging and Research, Dr. Dustin Hammers says they're participating in drug trials and doing research with people at different stages of memory loss. One key to coping with Alzheimer's, he says, is encouraging families to not ignore the signs and symptoms.

"Alzheimer's disease and dementia are medical illnesses, and it's important that as a community we break through the stigma that exists about people being diagnosed."

Dr. Hammers, a neuropsychologist, is the conference keynote speaker. He says the prospect of an Alzheimer's diagnosis is understandably scary, so people often put off seeing a doctor, although it is the first step that can allow them, and their family, to plan for the future and line up the support they need.

"There's actually a lot of information to be gathered from getting a diagnosis like that, including allowing the individual himself to consider, what role do they want to play in their care? What role do they want to play in their future legacy? How do they want people to remember them?"

Conference participants will learn how to distinguish normal forgetfulness from more serious conditions. According to Dr. Hammers, the best medical advice for preventing memory loss is the same as for maintaining a healthy lifestyle overall.

"Physical activity; cognitive or thinking engagement and stimulation; social stimulation; an appropriate diet. Some of the critical pieces in terms of prevention at the current time are very easy to do and very inexpensive to do."

Co-sponsors AARP Utah and the Alzheimer's Association say they'll share what they learn from caregivers at the event with Utah's Congressional delegation. They hope it prompts more federal support for research, and for families coping with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

The conference is 8:30 a.m., Sat., Sept. 22 at Dixie State College School of Nursing, 1526 E. Medical Dr., St. George. It is free to the public; call 435-628-8626 for information.

In addition to the conference, there's been a charitable Walk to End Alzheimer's in Utah scheduled every weekend this month. This Saturday (Sept. 22), it's in Logan, and the following Saturday (Sept. 29) in Provo.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - UT