Sunday, April 20, 2014
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Sally Tartre of Kennebunk, whose late mother, Connie Roux, had Alzheimer's disease, spoke Thursday at a State House news conference presenting Maine's first strategic plan to address dementia-related issues. She holds a frame of photos of her three children taken with their grandmother six weeks before she died in December 2011.
Photo by Kelley Bouchard / Staff Writer
Sierra Tartre of Kennebunk with her grandmother Connie Roux six weeks before she died in December 2011 at age 77. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease at age 74.
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The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram will publish an extensive series of stories over the next year as part of a major project on the challenges and opportunities of aging in Maine. We’ll be reporting on the experience of being a caregiver, the search for appropriate housing, health care and other services, and the threats of elderly abuse and exploitation, among other topics. If you would like to participate by sharing your experience or offering ideas for coverage, send us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
ALZHEIMER’S EARLY WARNING SIGNS:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing tasks
- Confusion with time and place
- Trouble understanding visual images or spatial relationships
- New problems with speaking or writing words
- Misplacing things and inability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgment
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood or personality
The plan calls on state agencies, local businesses and philanthropic groups to make addressing Alzheimer's a priority in Maine. The numbers say it warrants greater attention.
In 2007, the mortality rate for Alzheimer's in the United States was 24.7 deaths per 100,000 individuals; in Maine, which has a higher percentage of seniors, the rate was 35.7 per 100,000. According to the U.S. Census, Maine is considered the oldest state in the nation, with the highest median age of 42.7 years.
The plan identifies Alzheimer's as a public health crisis that must be "addressed with a thoughtful, integrated and cost-effective approach that is easier for individuals and families to navigate."
One of 24 state plans, the Maine plan was created at the same time that a first-ever national plan was drafted under the direction of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The national plan takes a comprehensive approach to critical issues that individual states couldn't address alone, including federal research to better understand and treat the disease.
On the local level, Tartre and her family have started a nonprofit organization, A Place to Start, to provide free assistance and support to Mainers facing similar challenges.
"It's a crazy experience," Tartre said. "You watch this person who is so healthy and vibrant go backwards almost to being a toddler, and yet visually they're still the same person."
Tartre said she hopes to share her experience so people can more easily access the care and services they need and avoid viewing Alzheimer's as a death sentence, especially when some people live several years after diagnosis.
"Now is the time to make Alzheimer's disease a priority in Maine and across the nation," Tartre said.
Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: