Alzheimer’s conference draws massive crowd

June 3, 2008

By hammersmith

[Source: Joy Slagowski,] – If conference attendance is a measure of the impact Alzheimer’s disease has on a community, the effect of the disease on Arizona is staggering.

At Friday’s Arizona’s Alzheimer’s Consortium 2008 annual conference, nearly 900 researchers, health care providers, caregivers, families and patients filled the conference room at Renaissance Glendale Hotel & Spa. Presentations geared to the general public were given in the morning, and scientific discussions took place in the afternoon.

The consortium is a statewide collaboration of 150 researchers from seven institutions: Sun Health Research Institute, Arizona State University, the Barrow Neurological Institute, Mayo Clinic Scottsdale, Translational Genomics Research Institute, University of Arizona, and the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute.

Charles Borwege, 71, of Sun City West attended the event to learn more about the disease that his wife, Nancy, was diagnosed with two years ago.

He said he works on controlling emotions and nerves.

“I need to learn to relax,” Borwege said.

Borwege said he got a lot out of a presentation given by Dr. Marisa Menchola on the emotional life of care giving.

Menchola said there were 9.8 million Americans providing at least 16 hours unpaid care for family members or friends who have dementia, at an economic cost of $8.5 billion dollars annually.

In Arizona, 175,000 residents are caregivers.

Addressing the mental and physical health issues related to care giving is crucial, Menchola said.
“Care giving implies not taking care of one, but two people,” Menchola said. “Even when you are on a plane, the directions are if the oxygen mask drops to put yours on first – it’s the same principle. If you pass out, you both are in deep trouble.”

Caregivers need to understand the root causes of their emotions.

“Emotions are telling you something is going on in your life or your mind,” Menchola said. “Don’t try to ignore your emotions, pay attention closely.”

Audience members queried a panel of doctors and social workers with a variety of questions.
Dr. Marwan Sabbagh, of the Sun Health Research Institute, addressed a question about spinal tap research, which he said will become even more prevalent in the future.

“Spinal tap fluid is one of the best proxy markers for (detecting bio-markers), better than blood,” Sabbagh said.

Dr. Rena Li, a researcher with the Sun Health Research Institute who focuses on the connection between women’s hormones and Alzheimer’s, inquired about plans for research on hormone replacement therapy.

Pierre Tariot of Banner Alzheimer’s Institute said there needed to be more research conducted as projects in the past were considered unfinished business.

“There’s quite a lot of suggestion and inclination that estrogen replacement therapy may improve cognition or may alter the fate of a woman’s brain as she ages,” Tariot said. “This hormonal storm that occurs, which is the window of vulnerability of peri-menopause, is probably when hormone replacement should be started.”

Generating interest in pursuing that research is critical, Tariot said.

“If we work together, we could get needed funding,” Tariot said. “And with the right degree of passion we can make it a public health priority.”

Joy Slagowski may be reached at 623-876-2514, or