Meeting Report

May 19, 2013

Mynga Futrell

Heartache and Hope: A Look at Alzheimer’s Disease

Speaking without access to her PowerPointŪ presentation—owing to a computer malfunction—Mynga nevertheless gave a riveting talk on the subject of Alzheimer’s disease. Her speech was a perfect mixture of startling statistics and moving personal stories.

After noting that Alzheimer’s is only one form of dementia, she explained that it represents the largest subset of that umbrella term. Furthermore, she pointed out that Alzheimer’s is the number six cause of death, and the numbers are growing due to the aging of the Boomer generation. But research into this devastating affliction is funded at about $500 million, a fraction of what is budgeted each year for other major diseases.

There is no cure for the disease, although there are drugs to help the patient cope. Diagnosis is now possible without awaiting autopsy, thanks to brain scanning techniques that have recently become available. There also is more help for the primary caregiver than in decades past: day care, home care, and assisted living facilities can all provide relief.

And the caregiver—usually a spouse or other family member—really needs help! Dr. Futrell emphasized that caring for a dementia patient is far, far more difficult than caring for a patient suffering from another affliction. To humorously illustrate this point, she shared a poster that said, “Reality is a major cause of stress for those who are in touch with it!” For the caregiver, of course.

She knows this first-hand, having provided, along with her husband and sister, care for her own mother, as she became increasingly debilitated by Alzheimer’s. Adding personal touches to her presentation, Mynga shared with the group the “memory book” and “song book” that she created to accompany her mother as she was moved into a care facility for her last days. Both books were creatively designed to provide visitors with tools to connect with the patient’s memory, allowing personal interaction to the maximum extent possible.

Although she provided much more information in her talk, Dr. Futrell very much wants people to consider volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association, as she has. She said that group needs all forms of assistance including research subjects, lobbying, and funding. If we are at all interested we should check out alz.org for more information.

Thank you, Mynga Futrell, for your very excellent presentation. We were all moved and informed by it.

Report prepared by Roger Zabkie


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