Documentary explores dementia as number of patients expected to triple by 2060

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A Scottsdale doctor is hoping his documentary on the awareness of dementia and its early stages will help in the fight against a condition affecting millions of people and their families.

With the number of Americans with dementia expected to triple by 2060, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control, detecting it early is critical. According to the World Health Organization, someone in the world develops dementia every 3 seconds.

Dr. John DenBoer, neuropsychologist and CEO-Founder of SMART Brain Aging Inc. recently premiered “This is Dementia” to a packed house at FilmBar in Phoenix. The documentary, which will become available on streaming services in May, examines Dr. DenBoer’s experiences as an academic researcher, a dementia educator and a grandson of a dementia sufferer.

In the documentary, Dr. DenBoer said dementia can be stigmatized, with some people refusing to face it head-on. Some are scared or intimidated, he said.

“People tend to bury their heads, they don’t know what to do with it,” Dr. DenBoer told the Daily News-Sun. “The fear is a real big motivator in helping them hide from it.”

He hopes the documentary gives viewers hope and a path forward to do something to help mitigate dementia.

“We want to remove people from denial,” he said. “We don’t need to bury our heads in the sand.”

Dr. DenBoer’s company SMART Brain Aging helps identify dementia at early stages and helps mitigate it as someone gets older. It’s a three-step process of awareness, education and mitigation.

In Arizona, the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute is recognized as a world leader in brain imaging research. Banner’s Imaging Center promotes a statewide collaboration in Alzheimer’s disease and other neuroscientific, cardiology and oncology research.

Alzheimer’s and related dementias have wide-ranging impacts not only on those with the disease, their families and caregivers, but also on communities and health-care systems, the CDC says.

“It’s insane,” Dr. DenBoer said. “From a political standpoint we need to address this. I’m hoping this film is able to help bring that about.”

The projected rise in people with dementia is likely to bring about a need for more independent living facilities and quality end of life care.

“It’s a tremendous, burgeoning market, unfortunately,” Dr. DenBoer said. He added that one of the problems about dementia is the long conversations the world is having about end of life, instead of looking at preventive measures when early signs arise.

According to the Mayo Clinic, dementia involves damage of nerve cells in the brain, which can occur in several areas. Dementia affects people differently, depending on the area of the brain affected.

Some dementias, like Alzheimer’s, progress and cannot be reversed. People 65 and older are most likely to develop dementia as a result of Alzheimer’s.

The Alzheimer’s Association lists the 10 most common signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

  • Forgetting recently learned information like dates or events, leading to asking for the same information over and over, or relying on memory aids or family members.
  • Changes in ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers, such as a recipe or keeping track of monthly bills.
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure, whether it’s settings on a microwave or recording a television show.
  • Losing track of dates, seasons and the passage of time; having trouble understanding events not currently happening; forgetting how they got somewhere.
  • Vision problems; difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast.
  • Trouble following or joining a conversation; stopping in the middle of a conversation with no idea how to continue or repeating information.
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
  • Changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, poor judgment when dealing with money by giving large amounts to telemarketers, paying less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.
  • Removal from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports.
  • Changes in mood and personality.

Age, family history, and the prevalence of Down syndrome and/or mild cognitive impairment put some people at a greater risk of having dementia.

While more research is needed, the Mayo Clinic suggests the following to aid in dementia prevention:

Keeping an active mind such as reading, puzzles and word games; physical and social activity; quitting smoking; getting enough vitamin D; lowering blood pressure and maintaining a diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and omega-3 fatty acids.

Holly Beaupre, director of “This is Dementia,” gained a more personal connection with the disease after taking over the documentary midway through its production.

After the April 11 premiere at FilmBar, she hopes to introduce the documentary at festivals and create projects on a bigger scale with more people.

For those with dementia, or know someone who has it, Sun Health in the West Valley has a no-cost Memory Care Navigator program. The program identifies support, services and resources that may be helpful in navigating dementia.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, call 623-832-9300 or visit sunhealth.org/memorycare.

In March, Sun Health said the market for over-the-counter supplements claiming to slow or prevent dementia has exploded, with statements designed to attract those most vulnerable and hoping for help with their condition.

The U.S. Federal Drug Administration recently took action related to 58 products being sold illegally online.

Consumers can do their due diligence by communicating with their physician and pharmacist about all supplements and over-the-counter products being taken.

“It is important to alert medical professionals to everything you now take as well as anything you may be adding or changing,” Sun Health states. “This prevents drug interactions and ensures the patient isn’t taking something that can interfere with medication, or cause toxicity when combined with other drugs or supplements.”

Sun Health recommends using Banner Health’s physician referral resource at 602-230-CARE or 230care.com if you need to see a neurologist for memory issues or another medical professional.

Contact reporter Chris Caraveo at 623-876-2531 or ccaraveo@newszap.com. Follow on Twitter @ChrisCaraveo31.

Read the Daily News-Sun online.

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