Their ultimate goal is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease but until then they provide education, support groups, and resources for families dealing with the disease.
- Now, to this week's 4 Your Community, our series highlighting organizations making a difference in the area. Liam Martin introduces us to the Alzheimer's Association of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and a new campaign they're launching this month.
LIAM MARTIN: Susan Antkowiak with the Alzheimer's Association's Massachusetts and New Hampshire chapter. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
SUSAN ANTKOWIAK: Thank you. Very happy to be here.
LIAM MARTIN: For anyone who doesn't know, what does the Alzheimer's Association do?
SUSAN ANTKOWIAK: Well, the Alzheimer's Association is here to support families all throughout the course of their journey, their experience. Our ultimate mission, of course, is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease. But until that time, we provide education, support groups, resources for families who are navigating this complicated experience.
We also have a very strong voice in public policy so we can improve the lives of individuals living with dementia. And then ultimately, again, we are focusing on advancing research so we can find disease modifying treatments, and then ultimately a cure.
LIAM MARTIN: You're launching this awareness campaign for the month of April. What's the goal of that campaign?
SUSAN ANTKOWIAK: The goal of our campaign is to reduce stigma and open up the opportunity for people to understand what Alzheimer's disease is. And then, potentially to seek detection, diagnosis, and treatment for people living with this disease process.
LIAM MARTIN: And you want people to be aware of, in particular, the warning signs for Alzheimer's. What are some of those warning signs?
SUSAN ANTKOWIAK: Well, I think first of all, we all know about memory loss. And we all experience memory loss as we age. That's a normal part of aging. But dementia is more than that. We also find that, as dementia begins to develop, that people may have changes in their language. So they may be able-- not be able to speak as fluently and comfortably as they did previously.
They may also have a little difficulty understanding. Certainly, we can see changes in judgment, completing familiar tasks. So a number of these issues combined together can really cause a problem for people really functioning as themselves on a day to day basis.
LIAM MARTIN: Are there any treatments right now? What's kind of the-- the frontier of Alzheimer's research at this point?
SUSAN ANTKOWIAK: As we look ahead to disease modifying treatments, we do believe that what we're seeing is the ability to break down some of the proteins that build up in the brain and cause interruptions for the brain cells to be able to talk with one another and communicate with one another. So in layman's terms, if we can reduce the amount of protein build up in the brain, we will see that the brain will be healthier and will be able to function more normally.
LIAM MARTIN: How can people help the Alzheimer's Association in addition to giving money? What are some ways that people can help?
SUSAN ANTKOWIAK: An important way to help is to reduce the stigma around Alzheimer's disease. You know, this is similar to any health condition. And when we can speak about health conditions, we know that we can see improvements. So we want people to share their story if they're experiencing cognitive issues, but also for caregivers to feel empowered to support their loved one, and to join us at the Alzheimer's Association in really bringing attention to this disease.
LIAM MARTIN: Susan Antkowiak with the Alzheimer's Association of Massachusetts and New Hampshire chapter. Thank you so much for joining us, and good luck with your awareness campaigns.
SUSAN ANTKOWIAK: Thanks very much, Liam. It's been a pleasure.