By Kristina Houck
More than 60,000 San Diegans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and that figure will reportedly double in the next 15 years as baby boomers age. The disease has already climbed to the third leading cause of death in the county.
Taking aim at Alzheimer’s, the county Board of Supervisors in May launched the Alzheimer’s Project, an effort to create a regional strategy to improve caregiver resources and to support research efforts to find better treatments and ultimately, a cure for the disease.
“Since San Diego County launched the Alzheimer’s Project with a real focus on research and community awareness and education, we’ve had a lot of interest from libraries throughout the county wanting to hold information sessions,” said Mary Ball, president and CEO of the San Diego/Imperial Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, which has served the community for 33 years. “We’re excited to be involved.”
For the first time, the Alzheimer’s Association and Rancho Santa Fe Library Guild will present “Brain Health and Alzheimer’s,” a three-part informational series at the Rancho Santa Fe Library. The free series kicks off Sept. 18, with more sessions on Oct. 16 and Nov. 13. All sessions will take place from 4:30-6:30 p.m.
About a quarter of the Rancho Santa Fe population is 65 or older, and estimates are that 1 in 9 Americans age 65 or older is living with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, Ball noted.
“This is a community that most likely has many residents who are impacted by Alzheimer’s or are caring for somebody with Alzheimer’s,” she said.
Holly Pobst, the chapter’s director of community education, will lead the first two sessions.
The series begins with “Maximizing Your Brain Health,” which will cover things to do to keep your brain healthier as you age. Attendees will learn tips for effective communication with a loved one who is struggling with Alzheimer’s or dementia during the second session, “Compassionate Communication.”
A researcher, who has yet to be confirmed, will lead the third and final session. “Breakthrough Research” will cover what’s new in Alzheimer’s research.
“These are classes that we offer throughout San Diego County, and they tend to be some of our most highly attended classes,” said Ball, who noted that the chapter hosts 12 to 15 classes every month at community centers, libraries, senior centers and the chapter’s offices.
“It’s so important for people to understand the warning signs of Alzheimer’s or another dementia. It’s a great opportunity to understand how you can lower your risk for Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Also, if you have concerns about somebody, this is a great way to get educated and provide them with more information and support.”
For more about the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter, visit www.alz.org/sandiego.