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Alzheimer's Association helps families, victims

POSTED: September 7, 2014 12:30 p.m.
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Patients with Alzheimer’s and their families face a unique set of challenges, which the Alzheimer’s Association of Coastal Georgia is prepared to help them with.

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If there was a deadly disease that potentially could affect everyone in the world, wouldn’t people want to know about it?
If this disease could not be prevented, cured or even slowed and was killing more and more people every year, wouldn’t people be concerned?
Unfortunately, such a disease does exist. Alzheimer’s disease kills brain cells, which leads to memory loss, erratic behavior, loss of body functions and eventually death. Alzheimer’s kills more than 500,000 seniors each year, making it the sixth leading cause of death in the country.
But a recent study by the Alzheimer’s Association shows that the disease is still widely misunderstood. In a recent survey of 12 countries worldwide, the Alzheimer’s Association found that 59 percent of respondents incorrectly believe that Alzheimer’s is a natural part of aging, and 40 percent did not believe the disease to be fatal.
The Alzheimer’s Association of Coastal Georgia is working to eradicate not only these misconceptions, but the disease as well. The local chapter offers support and education services as well as advocating politically on behalf of those with the disease.
As part of the association’s awareness program, we have offered our legal expertise free of charge to community groups and churches to let people know that they can put a plan in place to protect themselves and their loved ones in case they are incapacitated by Alzheimer’s.
Many people are unaware of the disease’s prevalence. About 5.2 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. In Georgia, 11 percent of seniors have Alzheimer’s, and one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that erodes one’s ability to recognize their loved ones, think or talk. Without prior planning, someone with Alzheimer’s may not be able to make choices about their medical treatment, care or finances.
As part of the Awareness Program, we teach people about advance directives, durable powers of attorney and revocable living trusts — three ways they can protect themselves and their loved ones.
The Alzheimer’s Association of Coastal Georgia is always looking for volunteers qualified to work in administration, the speakers bureau and events. Volunteers should call 912-920-2231.  
The Alzheimer’s Association of Coastal Georgia offers a 24-hour Helpline at 800-272-3900, eight support groups and one-on-one care consultations with families.
Educational programs include free training on the MedicAlert safe return program for first responders, awareness programs and educational programs for families and caregivers.
To raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research, the Alzheimer’s Association will hold a Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Sept. 27 in Savannah.
In lieu of a registration fee, participants are encouraged to raise money to help fund the cause and raise awareness in the community about the devastating effects of the disease.

Barid and Smith are cofounders of Savannah-based Smith Barid LLC, which specializes in elder law, estate planning and special-needs planning.

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