Understanding 
ALZHEIMERS
Summit Psychological Services Responds to the Need for Services for Older Adults
by Alison Johnson, PsyD , Managing Director

There is an inspiring quote on the Alzheimer’s Association website (https://www.alz.org)  

“The first survivor of Alzheimer's is out there, but we won't get there without you”. 

Imagine the impact of finding a cure for Alzheimers! So many Americans are unaware of the seriousness of diseases such as Dementia and Alzheimers.  One in three American Seniors will die with Alzheimer’s or another Dementia.  It will kill more individuals than Breast Cancer and Prostate Cancer combined. Between 2000 and 2019 the number of deaths caused by heart disease has decreased by 7.3%.  The deaths from Alzheimer’s has increased by 145%. As far as we know COVID contributed to 17% of this increase, but we have yet to realize the full impact of the virus on our older population.

 

At SPS, during and immediately after COVID, the phone calls for services for adults over 65 increased dramatically.  We could sense from the nature of the calls that our community was heading towards a serious issue and that our resources would be stretched, not just at SPS but community wide. We asked ourselves, “who is taking care of these older adults? Where can they go for services?” I don’t believe we fully appreciate how heavily we rely on unpaid caregivers to provide the physical and emotional support for older adults.  Over 11 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimers and other Dementias.  These caregivers provide more that 16 billion hours, valued at nearly 272 billion dollars.  This year Alzheimers and other Dementias will cost the nation 321 billion dollars.  By 2050 the cost is estimated to rise to nearly one trillion dollars!

 

After recently becoming a caregiver for my 90-year-old mother, and my awareness of the impact of COVID on older adults, I wanted to find ways that SPS could contribute more to services for older adults.  We set about talking to community services and resources to identify where we could have some impact on helping older adults.  Out of this research we saw a huge need for early detection and intervention.  Here is where SPS and our neuropsychologists could have a great impact.  The use of Neuropsychological testing to detect early signs of Alzheimer's, Dementia and Mild Cognitive Impairment is critical.  Although there are no cures for diseases such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s, early detection and treatments are likely to reduce cognitive and functional decline as well as lessen symptoms such as memory loss and confusion for some time.  The benefits of early detection and treatments are medical, emotional, and economic.  Families can then spend time finding resources and planning for the futures of their loved ones. 

The Division of Assessment, Testing and Analysis (DATA) was created at Summit Psychological Services and its first mission was to focus on the early detection of cognitive impairment and the needs of older adults.  We also developed a referral system to help facilitate access to our services.  We wanted our community outreach efforts to help as many older adults as we can.   Whether your concern is for yourself or a loved one, I encourage you talk to your medical practitioner about neuropsychological testing and the early detection of Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and Cognitive Impairment.

To learn more about DATA and Neuropsychological testing:

 Dr. Johnson and staff plan to raise money for cures and awareness for Alzheimer's this September 24th at the 2022 Walk to End Alzheimer's at the South Mountain Recreation Complex in West Orange, N.J.   According to their web site www.alz.org, the Alzheimer's Association Walk to End Alzheimer's is the world's largest fundraiser for Alzheimer's care, support and research.  The Walk on September 24th is for Essex, Hudson and Union Counties.  To join Team SPS to help #ENDALZ or to encourage them by making a donation, visit their page at  http://act.alz.org/goto/SPStoENDAlz

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