By Brittany Mosser
The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) is the world’s largest forum where researchers and practitioners from around the world come together to share research results, discuss theories, and collaborate. Last year, AAIC saw exciting announcements about studies suggesting that changes in the sense of smell may indicate the presence of dementia and updates on clinical trials for new medications. This year, AAIC will be held in Washington, D.C. and includes the Dementia Care, Research, and Practice Track to focus on how we currently treat Alzheimer’s, care for caregivers, and respond to the impact of dementia on our broader community. This portion of the conference will explore what are we doing to address the impact of Alzheimer’s now, how well are we doing it, and how can we do it better.
I am incredibly excited to be attending AAIC this year because I feel the urgency for these answers every day. I am thankful for and inspired by our community members that participate in research and share their experiences so openly with us. Brian Whitney and Ann Hedreen are two of the many Washingtonians advancing research for a cure.
As the Helpline Coordinator & Care Consultant at the Washington State Chapter I talk with people experiencing memory loss and looking for hope every day. I talk with family caregivers who are seeking some relief so they can continue to support their loved one and I see the burden Alzheimer’s has become on our system of care.
We know the numbers are staggering: 100,000 Washingtonians age 65 and over are living with Alzheimer’s. Another 324,000 Washingtonians are serving as their unpaid caregivers and providing $4.5 billion dollars’ worth of care. Caregivers that I speak with daily on Helpline openly share the stress, grief, and physical toll that providing care bestows; in 2014, it is estimated that caregivers spent an additional $200 million on their own health care costs.
We need to find a cure. We need to care for people with Alzheimer’s. And we need to care for the caregivers. But how do we do that, and how do we know that we are doing it working? The answer is research. Research into drug therapies, earlier detection, and effective supports for family caregivers. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s. I am excited to attend AAIC 2015 to see what a future without Alzheimer’s looks like and how we are going to get there.
Brittany Mosser, MSW is the Helpline Coordinator & Care Consultant at the Washington State Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. In that role, she provides telephone based support, consultation, and resources to community members that contact the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24/7 Helpline at 1-800-272-3900.