"We use these terms like 'I’m so bipolar.' 'I've lost my mind.' 'I forgot to take my meds today,' We think it's funny. It's really not," Lori Lynch mentioned to a group at the Miami Beach LGBT Visitor Center before a talk on Alzheimer's disease began on a rainy evening on Jan. 14.
The presentation, given by Gloria Orlandi-Kass, program services coordinator of the Alzheimer's Association- Southeast Florida Chapter, is the first of a series meant to establish the visitor center has more of a resource center for the local LGBT community, Lynch said.
"It's part of a LGBT local wellness initiative series, so there will be one a month on a variety of topics," Lynch said, noting February's topic is a discussion on discrimination, featuring several local authorities on this particular topic.
Regarding Alzheimer's, Orlandi-Kass told the small group of four attendees, ages 40s-60s, that the Alzheimer's Association is involved in research to find a cure for the disease, noting the intent behind the association's new logo after being asked by one attendee.
Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks, according to the Alzheimer's Association website.
"What's the difference between forgetting things and actually having some sort of Dementia? That's the point today," Orlandi-Kass said, adding that an estimated 5.2 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's. That figure is expected to triple by 2050 unless there’s more done.
"President Obama recently signed a bill, so we can have more money for research and caregivers," she said. "Hopefully, we can find a cure."
Orlandi-Kass reviewed the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer's:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgment
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood and personality
"People let it go for years before going for a complete assessment by a doctor," Orlandi-Kass said. “These symptoms don’t happen all the time.”
She added that the incidence rate is higher among women than men, and can disproportionately affect women who have suffered from depression. She also noted that brain injuries can lead to the disease, as can genetic links such as the APOE-e4 gene, or early-onset Alzheimer's.
"We are trying to promote more brain health, such as eating healthy and active lifestyle," she said as one of many strategies to address Alzheimer's.
“We are trying to create awareness,” Orlandi-Kass said, specifically within the LGBT community. “We have services, like a 24-hour line, especially for caregivers… If you are single or your partner has Alzheimer’s, there are resources in the community; there is help, and be aware of the symptoms,”
Other discussions to be featured in the visitor center's health initiative series include: discrimination, steps for success in 2016, PrEP and HIV prevention and LGBT immigration.
For more information on Alzheimer's Disease, ALZ.org.For information related to LGBT caregiver concerns, visit LGBTagingcenter.org. For more information, visit GoGayMiami.com or call 305-397-8914. The visitor center is located at 1130 Washington Ave. in Miami Beach.