The Pennsylvania Department of Aging hosted the 2022 Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders (ADRD) Virtual Forum to provide education and assess progress on issues related to ADRD, strengthen partnerships and community support, identify how healthcare systems can work collaboratively on these issues within their communities, and discuss opportunities to help advance Pennsylvania’s State Plan on ADRD.
This year’s annual forum, which attracted more than 270 attendees, highlighted some of the commonwealth’s ADRD best practices related to supported decision making, intergenerational programming, respite care, and building dementia-friendly communities. Secretary of Aging Robert Torres said that the stresses of living with ADRD are made worse when individuals and their caregivers become isolated.
“Staying socially engaged and connected with others is beneficial in so many ways. The strongest social connections are those shared with people who care about your well-being and happiness. Talking with others who are living with dementia can have many benefits. Whether it’s expressing concerns, receiving advice, or just hearing a different perspective, connecting with others who have dementia can make a huge difference,” said Secretary Torres.
Secretary Torres also noted that in Pennsylvania, according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2021 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Report:
- there were an estimated 280,000 people aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s in Pennsylvania in 2020 and this number is expected to increase to 320,000 by 2025;
- there were 4,150 deaths from Alzheimer’s Disease in 2019; and
- nearly one in every three seniors who dies each year in Pennsylvania has Alzheimer’s or some other dementia.
The forum included a discussion on supported decision making for older adults, particularly those who have been diagnosed with neurodegenerative diseases; presentations from organizations that support people living with ADRD and their caregivers; the introduction of Dementia Friendly Pennsylvania; and a panel discussion on intergenerational companionship and respite care.
Among the panel speakers were Wesley Perkins, who is living with cognitive impairment, and Mary Perkins, his wife and caregiver.
“Being my husband’s support and partner on his dementia journey has shown me avenues of caring that I hadn’t experienced. Having others create opportunities for him to be engaged, to laugh, share knowledge and feel valued are priceless. Every chance I have to gain knowledge and get reinforced by others gives me a lift and makes a challenging journey a little easier,” said Mary Perkins.
The ADRD Task Force was established in 2018. Its members represent a diverse group of individuals and organizations from across the commonwealth, including representatives from consumer advocacy groups and long-term care organizations.
“The Pennsylvania ADRD Task Force is laser focused on impacting and improving the lives of Pennsylvanians living with Alzheimer’s, related dementias and other neurocognitive disorders and to provide support and information for their families and caregivers,” said Renee Chenault Fattah, ADRD Task Force chair. “We were especially excited about this year’s forum which highlighted what is available through innovative caregiving supports and strategies and because we were virtual, our hope was to have reached as many people as possible across the commonwealth.”