Alzheimer’s awareness a priority

Luke Graham

Regina Grinolds can distinctly remember the changes in her grandmother — unfortunately, her grandmother could not.

“It was sad to see how much a person changes,” Grinolds said. “The simple little things that a person can’t remember really hurt.”

Grinolds’ grandmother is one of an estimated four million people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Colorado Alzheimer’s Association Web site.

That number likely is low. Despite the rapidly growing population of people with Alzheimer’s, most are still leery of reporting the disease.

“The biggest problem is there’s still such a fear of the disease,” said Pamela Kinder, M.D. “To be told it’s Alzheimer’s is still pretty devastating.”

Kinder, who is the only neurologist in Northwest Colorado, said one in 10 people older than 65 and half of those older than 85 have Alzheimer’s.

“As the population lives longer, more and more people will get the disease,” she said.

Detecting Alzheimer’s early, combined with the use of one of the new medications, Kinder said, is the best way to deal with Alzheimer’s.

“If you come in early, it’s much easier to address than it is if they come in late,” she said. “The medications we have now really help.”

Kinder said the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s are memory loss, difficulty performing familiar tasks, problems with language and disorientation.

“Minor tasks become a big problem when you have a person with Alzheimer’s,” she said.

Even with the advances in medical technology, the medication only delays the eventual need for a caretaker, Kinder said.

Grinolds, who works as a case manager for Northwest Colorado Options for Long Term Care, holds Alzheimer’s support group meetings the third Saturday of every month.

She said the meeting focuses on helping caregivers — usually family members — alleviate some of the stress associated with taking care of someone who has Alzheimer’s.

“Caregiving stress is a topic we talk about a lot,” she said. “(The meetings are) an outlet for caregivers to talk to each other.”

Grinolds said more than 80 percent of Alzheimer caregivers report stress, and more than half say they suffer from depression.

According to the CAA Web site, more than 70 percent of people with Alzheimer’s live with family members, and the average lifetime cost to take care of a person with Alzheimer’s is $174,000.

Because of the cost and the burden on family members who are serving as caregivers, Grinolds and Kinder said there is a need for more public awareness — especially in Moffat County.

“Finding resources is a big challenge here,” Grinolds said.

Most facilities that offer long-term care of people with Alzheimer’s are miles away — with the closest being in Grand Junction, Grinolds said.

People who have advanced stages of Alzheimer’s are often forced to go into a nursing home because the burden becomes too much on the family, she said.

Fortunately, she said, Sandrock Ridge Care and Rehabilitation in Craig has plans to open up an Alzheimer’s wing in its facility in the future.

Grinolds thinks that would cut down on the cost incurred by those who have having to commute to see family members who have Alzheimer’s.

Although there is an option of putting family members in nursing homes, relatives often choose to keep them at home because of the cost of care at a nursing home.

The CAA Web site estimates the average cost of full-time care in a nursing is home $42,000 a year, but can exceed $70,000 in certain parts of the country.

Grinolds said the Alzheimer’s Association always accepts donations to increase research and awareness. They also hold 15 “Memory Walks” in different places across the state to increase awareness. The closest Memory Walk to Craig will take place in Grand Junction on Sept. 10.

Sandrock also is hosting a Savvy Caregiver workshop Aug. 20 to help people learn about taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s.

Although these are only a few of the events that hopefully will raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s, Kinder said that more always can be done.

“Since there is very limited education for patients and family in the area,” she said, “it always helps if people were more aware of how to treat and deal with Alzheimer’s.”

If anyone is interested in taking part in a Memory Walk, he or she can register online at

Anyone interested in learning more about Sandrock’s Savvy Caregiver presentation can call (970) 256-1274, and anyone interested in meeting with the Alzheimer’s support group should contact Regina Grinolds at 824-3985.

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