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Dementia is Focus of Midwest Weekend Conference

About 19,000 South Dakotans currently suffer from Alzheimer's disease; another 2,000 will join those ranks by 2025. (
About 19,000 South Dakotans currently suffer from Alzheimer's disease; another 2,000 will join those ranks by 2025. (
March 2, 2018

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – The Midwest's largest meeting about dementia is happening this weekend.

Dementia is an umbrella term for a set of symptoms including impaired thinking and memory, with Alzheimer's disease as the most common cause. The conference – in St. Paul, Minnesota – features sessions and exhibits from experts in the field of dementia research.

Kendra Binger, program manager with the Minnesota-North Dakota chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, is one of the weekend's presenters on how people can reduce the risk factors for dementia through a healthy lifestyle.

"Looking at things like life long learning, exercising, challenging your mind, staying socially connected as we get older,” she says. “Doing all of those things won't prevent Alzheimer's from occurring, but the symptoms may not be as severe or as apparent as early as they would have."

Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. About 19,000 South Dakotans suffer from Alzheimer's disease, a number that is predicted to top 21,000 by the year 2025. That ranks South Dakota second in the country in per capita cases.

New to the conference this year is a technology lab. Binger says it will feature some of the innovative ways technology can help people with dementia, such as devices that make cell phones easier to use and can turn off a stove if it's been left on for too long.

"Technology for people living with dementia is becoming a bigger piece of the conversation, because that can really help that person living with the disease, as well as caregivers, keep them at home longer and at home safer" says Binger.

The conference also features a keynote speech from former football player Ben Utecht on concussions and their effects on the brain. Severe concussions are known to increase the risk of developing dementia.

The majority of Americans living with Alzheimer's are 65 and older, but 200,000 younger people have early-onset Alzheimer's, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD