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Alzheimer's numbers up in Utah — as well as resources
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Beverly Miller, 66, once a reporter, a teacher and a congresswoman's aide, can no longer remember how to write.

"I can't write a word. I could spell it for you, but I can't write it. Physically there is no connection with the pen and my brain," she said. "It just isn't there. It is the most bizarre thing."

Beverly was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease nearly three years ago. Since then, she's become accustomed to having the ability to perform daily tasks, such as driving and following a recipe, taken from her.

She is one of the 32,000 people living with Alzheimer's in Utah, and her husband Bill is one of the 134,000 unpaid caregivers.

"Alzheimer's is what it is, but it isn't the end of the world," Beverly said. "It isn't quite as scary as it sounds, but it is definitely something that you have to learn to live with and be comfortable with."

The Millers and the Alzheimer's Association want to alert caregivers and those with the disease to resources available to them, from support groups to new online resource to events related to November's National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month.

In April the association launched ALZConnected and Alzheimer's Navigator, two free online resources that help families connect socially and find personalized information from home.

That's why the resources are so important — they assist people who can't leave their homes, said Nick Zullo, program director at the Utah chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

"Caregiving creates a sort of isolation," Zullo said. "We all have the technology in our home; we can overcome isolation."

ALZConnected provides a place for caregivers and those living with Alzheimer's to connect through message boards, "solutions" boards and specialized groups. It also allows people to make "connections"— similar to Facebook "friends"— with people from across the country.

According to the association, 70 percent of first-time AlzConnected users return to the site, and if someone posts a question or message, they will typically get a response within an hour.

The Alzheimer's Navigator offers tools to help caregivers and people with Alzheimer's evaluate their needs, identify steps to take and connect with local programs and services.

The Navigator is useful to Bill Miller because it allows him to track his wife's progress over time. He takes the Navigator's survey about every six months so he can observe how the degenerative disease is changing Beverly's abilities.

"I know it's going to get worse," he said. "The question is always: When?"

When the couple first learned of the diagnosis, Bill said, all the information from doctors was overwhelming. But with the help of this online tool, he said, they've been able to digest the information in more manageable doses.

An early stage engagement group Beverly joined is one of the resources that has helped the couple the most. They call themselves "the retreaters," according to Zullo, and they go on mini-retreats to spots such as Red Butte Garden, the Utah Museum of Fine Art and Thanksgiving Point, with lunch at a nearby cafe.

The retreats provide some respite for Bill, and Beverly said she enjoys laughing with the group. Their companionship has provided her with an important piece of knowledge, she said: "We're not alone. ... There's a family of us out there and it's quite huge." —

More awareness efforts

Utah groups hope to alert residents that November marks awareness days, weeks and the month for many diseases, conditions and issues. For more about the various efforts: Utahns mark awareness month for many health issues, http://bit.ly/TxFtvQ

Help for Alzheimer's families

Several conferences and events for those with Alzheimer's disease and caregivers are planned this month.

Caregivers conference

"You're Not Alone: A Day for You 2012," Utah's annual caregivers conference, will feature keynote speaker Amanda Dickson, KSL newsradio host who is also a caregiver; educational sessions; and rejuvenation opportunities, including massages and yoga classes.

When • Nov. 13, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where • Salt Lake Community College's Larry H. Miller Campus at the Miller Free Enterprise Center, 9750 S. 300 West, Sandy.

Cost • The conference is free for family caregivers ($5 lunch optional), $15 for students with a student ID and $35 for professional caregivers. For more information or to register, call 801-538-3926

Paint Mixer Fundraiser

Create a painting by following an instructor step-by-step; contact the Alzheimer's Association for more details at 801-265-1944.

When • Nov. 13, 6:30 p.m.

Where • 738 Main St., Park City.

Cost • Donations optional. Register at http://www.thepaintmixer.com.

Celebrate Caregivers

Weber Human Services hosts a party to celebrate Caregivers Month.

When • Nov. 16, 12 p.m.

Where • Weber Human Services auditorium, 237 26th St., Ogden.

Cost • Free, lunch provided. Respite services are available during class time. Please R.S.V.P. by calling Laurie Favero at 801-625-3866.

Dementia Professionals Support Group

Dr. John "Keoni" Kauwe will be speaking on the topic "Recent Findings on Genetic Rick Factors for Alzheimer's Disease."

When • Nov. 16, 1:30 p.m.

Where • Alzheimer's Association Office, 855 E. 4800 South, Suite 100, Salt Lake City

Cost • Free; contact the Alzheimer's Association for more details at 801-265-1944

Alzheimer's Association Open House

When • Nov. 16, 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Where • Alzheimer's Association Office, 855 E. 4800 South, Suite 100, Salt Lake City

Cost • Free; contact the Alzheimer's Association for more details at 801-265-1944

Help for Alzheimer's families

Capture Life's Journey: Using Memories to Improve Alzheimer's Care.

When • Dec. 6, 6:30 p.m.

Where • 5005 S. 900 East, Suite 120, Salt Lake City

Cost • To attend the free workshop, call 801-266-9444 or email cassietweten@homeinstead.com

Health • As the number of Alzheimer's cases rise in Utah, more community supports and resources are being developed.
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