The Florida Department of Elder Affairs today, Nov. 1, encouraged all Floridians, especially those with older loved ones, to observe the beginning of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month by recognizing the outstanding contributions of Florida’s statewide network of memory disorder clinics.
President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation recognizing Alzheimer’s Awareness Week in November 1982, just a few years before he developed the disease himself. Over the years the recognition has expanded to cover all of November. Governor Charlie Crist last week issued a proclamation recognizing the month in Florida.
Alzheimer’s disease is generally defined as a progressive disorder that damages brain cells, leading to a decline in memory, thinking and other functions. While Alzheimer’s is not the only cause of dementia, it is the most commonly recognized one. Some 5 million Americans are believed to have Alzheimer’s, including more than a half-million Floridians.
“Alzheimer’s places an incredible strain on everyone – whether you are a patient, a loved one, a caregiver, or simply someone concerned that one day this insidious disease will strike your family,” said Elder Affairs Interim Secretary Charles T. Corley. “Thanks to the efforts of the memory disorder clinics and other programs around Florida, we are making important discoveries into the cause and treatment of Alzheimer’s and the care of its victims.”
The State of Florida has designated 15 memory disorder clinics, which provide comprehensive assessments, diagnostic services and treatment to individuals who exhibit symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and related memory disorders. Through contracts issued by the Department of Elder Affairs, the state currently funds 13 of the 15 memory disorder clinics. The clinics also develop training programs and materials and conduct training for caregivers, respite service providers and health care professionals in the care of persons with Alzheimer's disease and related memory disorders.
Memory disorder clinics also conduct service-related applied research. Clinics are established at medical schools, teaching hospitals, and public and private not-for-profit hospitals throughout the state. Significant research has been conducted on the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s, from analyzing plaque in the brain to genetic exploration. Specialists also encourage individuals to make an effort to sharpen their memory skills as they age in hopes of preventing the early onset of Alzheimer’s.
A 10-member Alzheimer’s Disease Advisory Committee works with Elder Affairs regarding legislative, programmatic and administrative matters related to Alzheimer’s disease victims and their caregivers. Established in 1985, the committee marks its 25th anniversary this year. The committee’s membership includes researchers, caregivers, gerontologists, social workers, nurses and more. It is currently chaired by Jamie Glavich of Jacksonville, a family and professional caregiver for 22 years.