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Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022

ALZHEIMER’S AND DEMENTIA

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Dealing with memory concerns

Sometimes, it helps to realize you’re not alone. One local non-profit agency is trying to get the word out that they have the resources and staffing available to help people in the Ark-La- Tex who are dealing with Alzheimer’s and related dementia issues.

According to its executive director, Paulette Freeman, The Bridge Alzheimer’s & Dementia Resource Center is a relatively young agency. “We grew organically from another organization, the Alzheimer’s Agency of Shreveport- Bossier. In 2020, the organization was renamed, rebranded and relocated,” she explained.

“We want the community to know that we’re the bridge that connects people to resources and education. If there is a memory concern, if memory problems are identified or diagnosed, when a diagnosis is made, or you see memory problems, there’s no ‘how-to’ book. There’s no instruction book. So, you’re lost. The reason why this organization was formed was because there was a coalition of members who said once a diagnosis is made, where does that patient go for help? There wasn’t any. So that’s why this was formed.”

Freeman noted that there are plenty of potential clients for the organization in our area. According to statistics from the LSU Health Center for Brain Health, an estimated 85,000 people are living with dementia in a 75-mile radius of Shreveport.

“We’re creating a community where nobody affected by Alzheimer’s or dementia makes the journey alone,” Freeman said. “We want to be there with you. I think that has helped a lot of people already.”

Dementia in all its forms affects the patient and the caregivers who are responsible for those patients. The Bridge offers specific programs for those who care for family and friends afflicted with these diseases. “The caregivers come together; it’s like a no-judgement zone,” Freeman explained. “They can talk about what’s happening, the behavioral issues. We share advice within the group, and it’s all confidential. It makes you realize that you’re not alone.”

The organization’s menu of services is extensive, from memory screenings to a guide to available resources.

“We have a local resource directory that has all the organizations and companies in town that deal directly with dementia and Alzheimer’s patients,” Freeman noted. “We offer client coaching with the families. We’re offering monthly workshops; we do outreach speaking.

“We can also help with the legal aspects of it, like the important documents you’ll need once a diagnosis is made. We help people navigate their financial questions about Medicare and Medicaid and other insurances.

“If people have questions about behavioral problems with their loved ones affected by Alzheimer’s, then we help them with that, too. We can do individual meetings, we can do family meetings, and we have someone there who can answer their questions,” Freeman added.

All those resources are wonderful, but they must cost an arm and a leg.

Not according to Freeman. Services of the Bridge are available to those affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia and the family and caregivers free of charge. That also includes out-of-state family members whose loved ones live in the area.

This year, the Bridge began sharing space with the Center for Brain Health at LSU Health Shreveport. “We’re separate organizations, but we collaborate,” Freeman said. “What they do is offer clinical trials and assessments. We give a basic memory screening, and we can either refer you to a doctor or refer you to the Center for Brain Health. They can do further assessments like MRIs, and they can also analyze your potential for Alzheimer’s if there’s a history of it in your family.

“The whole purpose of bringing us together is to have a wrap-around service and a one-stop shop for people with dementia and their caregivers. Where they provide the medical assessments and the clinical trials, we provide the education and the resources and the support that they need.”

Freeman said they can offer their services free of charge because the organization receives grants from foundations and private donors.

“The only program that we charge for is our annual education conference. That is in November, where we bring in a national speaker and local experts on Alzheimer’s and dementia, and we charge $20-$25. And that’s just to cover the cost of putting on that conference.

“Otherwise, it’s done by volunteers. We have in our support groups, we have facilitators that come in and do our support groups, and they volunteer their time for that.”

The thing to know, according to Freeman, is that dementia is going to be with us. “People are living longer. There are more cures for cancer and other diseases, which is wonderful, but people are living longer. As we live longer, the brain is affected. As you age, you have more problems with memory.”

But, thanks to The Bridge Alzheimer’s & Dementia Resource Center, there is a place to turn for patients and their caregivers that offers free help and counseling. “Our vision [is] to create a community where no one affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia makes the journey alone.”

MORE INFORMATION:

The Bridge Alzheimer’s & Dementia Resource Center, 851 Olive St., Shreveport, LA 71104. 318-656- 4800 www.alzbridge.org

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