Shepherd Snyder Published

Alzheimer’s Awareness Day Recognized By State Officials

Alzheimer's disease causes atrophy of brain tissue. The discovery that lymph vessels near the brain's surface help remove waste suggests glitches in the lymph system might be involved in Alzheimer's and a variety of other brain diseases.

Thursday is Alzheimer’s Awareness Day in West Virginia. More than six million Americans are affected by the cognitive disease, including around 40,000 West Virginians. Less than half of those with the disease are formally diagnosed.

Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association’s West Virginia chapter Sharon Covert said with so many suffering from Alzheimer’s under the care of family or friends, it’s important for caregivers to meet them where they are and that each person makes progress differently.

“Trying to make them remember something that they do not remember, it’s like talking to someone having a heart attack and saying, ‘If you would just control your heart muscle, you could really stop that heart attack, and you’re just not trying hard enough,’” Covert said.

Covert said as West Virginia has one of the oldest populations in the country, much of the state population is at risk.

“There’s a lot of factors that add to it. You have to think about your health on the whole, if it’s good for the heart, it’s good for the brain. And you know, we have high instances of heart disease, high blood pressure. Just those contributing factors,” Covert said. “This contributes to all chronic illnesses, and they do their factor when talking about dementia later in life too.”

For the state government’s part, it passed bipartisan legislation during last year’s session that would require law enforcement and corrections officers to undergo training on how to deal with those suffering from Alzheimer’s. As a result, education programs have been rolled out both at the state’s police academy and online.

“We provide it for free. All of our training and resources are absolutely, 100 percent free, so they don’t cost the taxpayers anything, they don’t cost local police department’s anything. And I’m just really proud of that, because I think that this is an opportunity,” Covert said. “It can’t be something that is an encumbrance on local police departments.”

The state capitol building will be illuminated in a teal color Thursday night in recognition of the day, joining 800 other buildings worldwide in an initiative led by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. Gov. Jim Justice also issued a proclamation Wednesday, recognizing the event statewide.

“Alzheimer’s is something that is racing across this land, and it’s been terrible in many, many ways for lots and lots and lots of folks,” Justice said during Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing as he announced the proclamation.

Information and resources can be found at the Alzheimer’s Association’s website.

A 24/7 helpline can also be called at 800-272-3900.