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November marks National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Caregiver Month.

Alzheimer’s is one of the most insidious diseases, afflicting more than 5 million people in the United States. The disease is devastating to both the afflicted and their family.

Many members of the community either have a family member or know someone whose family has seen or is seeing the effects of this terrible disease. For some, it starts slowly with early signs of dementia, where an individual may show signs of memory loss or confusion. Some will begin to repeat patterns of behavior or activities, not realizing they are doing so. For some, their behavior can become aggressive and sometimes violent. In the later stages, the disease shows how terrible it really is, as sufferers often do not even remember loved ones even when they are talking to them, if speech is still an ability.

The National Alzheimer’s Association calls the disease an epidemic, as one in three senior citizens will die from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Science is so far losing the battle in figuring out what causes the disease and how to prevent it.

In the meantime, families have their hands tied, trying to figure out the best course of care for their loved one. Eventually, they may need to turn to a caregiver, someone who understands how the disease progresses and how to help families and their loved ones cope with its progression.

It takes a tremendous amount of patience to care for a loved one with the disease. Families often feel frustrated, helpless and emotional watching someone most of them have known their entire lives lose their grasp on the world around them. For this reason, and many others, caregivers are incredibly important for families to be able to turn to in these trying times.

Here in Calvert County, Asbury-Solomons, an assisted living community, offers support for families all year. An Alzheimer’s and dementia support group meets from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. on the first Thursday of every month. The group offers advice and assistance for caregivers.

Asbury-Solomons also hosts the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s that takes place in September in Solomons, which this year raised more than $72,000 to combat the disease.

Again, this is a devastating disease to all involved. Thankfully, it can be slowed down if caught early, and education is key. While a cure is still a long time coming, it is comforting to know support is readily available here locally.