Uniquely Serving Eastern Idaho

Published online: Oct 12, 2020 Articles, East Idaho Health Scott Holmes
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A world without Alzheimer’s. That is the vision of the Alzheimer’s Association. 

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease and the most common form of dementia. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and it is the sixth leading cause of death. Currently, an estimated 27,000 people in Idaho have the disease, and unless it can be effectively treated or prevented, the number of people with it will increase significantly.

For families dealing with Alzheimer’s in rural communities such as Eastern Idaho, access to important resources and support can be difficult. Many seniors go undiagnosed and families are unaware that there are many ways to improve a loved one’s quality of life and ease the burden of family caregiving.

Fortunately for our community that has changed. Six years ago, a group of community leaders in Idaho Falls formed an all-volunteer presence of the Alzheimer’s Association in Eastern Idaho. Its mission has been to provide awareness, education as well as family support groups and 24/7 hotline support in our communities.

“The need for these services is significant in Eastern Idaho and is growing,” said Mike Beckstead, Alzheimer’s Association Leadership Council member and president of Visiting Angels. “Families now have a place to turn to help navigate the difficulties of caregiving and the education of our local healthcare providers has been instrumental in awareness, diagnosis and care.”

Additionally, this group of volunteers participates in advocacy at a state level, representing the unique needs of rural communities, as well as fundraising activities such as the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Idaho Falls. 

“We live in an amazing community in Eastern Idaho,” Beckstead said. “Their support and generosity helps with our local efforts as well as funds advancements in research to prevent, treat, and ultimately, cure this disease.”

The Alzheimer’s Association is the largest, private, non-profit funder of Alzheimer’s and dementia research. And the funds raised are paying off. 

For example, scientists are getting much closer to a simple blood test for Alzheimer’s that could be done in a family doctor’s office. The disease is usually diagnosed through tests of memory and thinking skills, but that’s very imprecise and usually involves a referral to a neurologist. More reliable methods such as spinal fluid tests and brain scans are invasive or expensive.

We have a ways to go, but these volunteers are determined to witness the first survivor of Alzheimer’s and rid our communities of this horrific disease.

For more information or to get more involved, visit ALZ.org/Idaho

Click here to read more of the November issue.

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