Annual Alzheimer’s conference moves online

Aug 11th, 2020 | By | Category: News

The annual Pierce County Alzheimer’s Conference is usually held in-person. But for 2020, it will be an online event because of COVID-19, while still providing information and practical skills for individuals and families dealing with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
The conference will offer one-hour sessions at 1 p.m. on the four Thursdays of September. It’s free, but advance registration is required at or by calling 253-798-4600. Event link and phone numbers will be provided at registration.
“These are incredibly hard times for families dealing with Alzheimer’s and other dementias,” said Aaron Van Valkenburg, manager of Pierce County Aging and Disability Resources, a county government program and sponsor of the conference in collaboration with Health Care Providers Council of Pierce County, a non-profit organization. “Now more than ever, they all need support, information and resources. The conference has moved online to be safer and more accessible for the thousands of people in our community who manage with the disease day in and day out.”
The conference will be composed of four one-hour presentations:
• Sept. 3, “Isolation During the Pandemic,” with Marysusan Gibson-Iotte, a certified dementia educator.
• Sept. 10, “Dementia Friendly Activities,” with Benjamin Surmi, director of people and culture at Koelsch Communities.
• Sept. 17, “How to Handle Challenging Behaviors,” with Laura Vaillancourt, a licensed mental health counselor and geriatric mental health specialist.
• Sept. 24, “Legal and Financial Planning,” with Meredith Grigg, an attorney with Northwest Justice Project and co-author of “Dementia Legal Planning Toolkit,” and Bryana Cross Bean, an attorney with a focus on estate planning, long-term care planning, elder law, and probate.
Each presentation will include time for questions and answers. Recordings of the presentations, as well as supplementary resources, will be available at
Many health conditions have clear symptoms such as pain, weight gain or loss, persistent cough, fever, discomfort, bleeding and the like. With Alzheimer’s, symptoms often come on gradually, almost imperceptibly. Often the symptoms can be hidden.
More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. Many more don’t know they have the disease. Supporting them are over 16 million family members and friends who provide unpaid care at home. Their care is valued at nearly $244 billion by the Alzheimer’s Association. Between 2000 and 2018, deaths from Alzheimer’s has increased 146 percent and is now the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia. Dementia is a loss of thinking, remembering, and reasoning skills that interferes with a person’s daily life and activities.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older people. Other types of dementia include Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and vascular dementia.
Van Valkenburg said the information provided at the Pierce County conference will be appropriate to all forms of dementia, as well as Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias – in addition to conditions such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, and developmental disabilities – can cause cognitive impairment. Common signs of cognitive impairment include memory loss, frequently asking the same question or repeating the same story over and over, not recognizing familiar people and places, trouble exercising judgment such as knowing what to do in an emergency, changes in mood or behavior, vision problems, and difficulty planning and carrying out tasks, such as following a recipe or keeping track of monthly bills.
Researchers don’t fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease in most people. However, they continue to study a complex series of age-related brain changes, along with genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors to better understand the disease.
Just because a family member has Alzheimer’s doesn’t mean others in the family will get it, too. According to researchers, genetic factors can make people more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, but there is no guarantee.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Several drugs have been approved to treat the symptoms, and certain medicines and other approaches can help control behavioral symptoms. Scientists continue to develop and test possible new treatments.