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PA Forum on Early Detection, Diagnosis and Treatment of Alzheimer’s

Nov 08, 2021
Nurse holding hand of senior man in rest home. Doctor helping old patient with Alzheimer's disease. Shot of a caregiver helping a senior man. Care Worker Helping Senior Man

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging last week hosted the 2021 Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders (ADRD) Forum, which attracted more than 200 stakeholders to participate virtually. This annual forum is convened to provide education and assess progress on issues related to ADRD, strengthen partnerships and community support, identify how healthcare systems can work collaboratively within their communities, and discuss opportunities to help advance Pennsylvania’s State Plan on ADRD.

This year’s forum focused on educating physicians and consumers in early detection, diagnosis and treatment. It opened with messages from Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Aging Robert Torres, who both said education and early intervention are significant and necessary steps that must be taken to help fight this terrible disease.

“There are common misconceptions about Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders such as that memory issues and other behavioral changes are just a natural part of aging. There is also stigma attached to a diagnosis of ADRD that may make some individuals reluctant to discuss issues they may be experiencing with their physicians,” Secretary Torres said. “Breaking down these barriers and engaging in open discussions with physicians is an important step to early detection and diagnosis of ADRD.”

Secretary Torres also noted that in Pennsylvania, according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2021 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Report:

  • There were 4,150 deaths from Alzheimer’s Disease in 2019.
  • There were an estimated 280,000 people aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s in 2020 and this number is expected to increase to 320,000 by 2025.
  • Nearly one in every three seniors who dies each year in Pennsylvania has Alzheimer’s or some other dementia.

Among the panel speakers were Peter Storkerson, who is living with Frontotemporal Dementia, and Elka Kazmiercazk, his wife and caregiver, who reside in the Pittsburgh area.

“People living with dementias and their families fight alone for quality of life and decency. They need healthcare professionals to listen to them and be fearless in obtaining precise diagnoses and in helping them to be empowered to persevere and maximize what they still can do,” Kazmierczak said.

The Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Task Force was established in 2018, and its members represent a diverse group of individuals and organizations from across the commonwealth, including representatives from consumer advocacy groups and long-term care organizations. Jennifer Holcomb, Personal Care Home Administrator at Cross Keys Village in New Oxford, provided an update during the forum on the activities of the task force.

“As the Chair of the Pennsylvania ADRD Task Force, I continue to be invigorated by the energy within this group and their desire to focus on enhancing aspects of support for those living with all types of neurocognitive disorders,” Holcomb said.

The ADRD Forum is held annually each November to highlight National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and to further the commonwealth’s progress in implementing the recommendations of the State Plan for Alzheimer’s Disease & Related Disorders.

Learn more about ADRD Task Force by visiting the Department of Aging’s website.

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