MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Dementia risks among veterans will be the topic of a statewide virtual forum put on by the Alzheimer’s Association on June 29.
The forum, which is free, will provide information about Alzheimer’s and dementia and the caregiver support resources offered by VA Medical Centers and the Alzheimer’s Association. Melissa Dever, a program director with the Association, said the organization is working to educate veterans, drive early detection of the disease and connect veterans to free ongoing education and support programs that can enhance care and understanding for affected families.
“They’ve allotted like 30 minutes for a question-and-answer session with the experts,” Dever said. “And then also, we will be going over the 10 warning signs so people can distinguish between what is normal aging of the brain and then what is not normal and when do we need to seek out help and have an assessment to see if dementia could be present.”
According to statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association, veterans with dementia are 2.6 times more likely to be hospitalized than other veterans—and hospital stays are, on average, 2.4 times longer. In addition, the average number of outpatient psychiatric visits is three times greater among veterans with dementia than veterans without.
“Because of the enhanced risk of dementia, we really are taking proactive measures to reach out to veterans to educate them about how both the Alzheimer’s Association and the VA Medical Centers can help them and their families,” Program Director for the West Virginia Alzheimer’s Association, Teresa Morris, said. “Caring for someone with dementia can be very isolating. This program will help people understand the support services available to help them.”
Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI) have a 60 percent greater chance of developing dementia. PTSD is two to five times more common in veterans compared with the general population.
To register for the forum, which is from 5-6:30 p.m., call the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900. After registering, a Zoom link will be provided to join the session. The educational event is for veterans, their caregivers and interested family members.
“We really hope that people will take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about dementia,” Dever said. “You know, people often in society, we don’t take advantage of knowing warning signs of certain diseases. If we think it’s not going to happen to us. But there are, you know, we have over 5,000,000 Americans in the United States with Alzheimer’s, so it very well can happen to you or somebody you love.”