Dale Johnson: One of every 10 people, age 65 and older, has Alzheimer’s disease. About a third of people, age 85 and older, has Alzheimer’s disease. We started this discussion last Saturday morning on The Conversation Starts Here with Dr. Sandra Miller of Complete Hearing, the link between Alzheimer’s and dementia with your hearing health. You can find that conversation at complete-hearing.com. Dr. Miller on The Conversation Starts Here. Good morning!
Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.: Good morning Dale.
Dale Johnson: And we have convinced Cassie Larreau-Bailey from the Alzheimer’s Association. She’s the walk manager out of the Nebraska Chapter to continue to join us. Before we bring Cassie into the conversation again, Dr. Miller, introduce our new listeners to the protocol that is the norm these days at Complete Hearing.
Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.: Absolutely. We continue to reopen the practice slowly. Again, abiding by the governor’s recommendations and our mayor’s recommendations, in terms of what we should be doing to keep everyone safe. We do work with a population that is more at risk, and so we are keeping very definite, extra protocols. And so what you’ll find with us is that we’re slowly opening some of our routine things we used to do in, regards to walk-in hour, which is now curbside. We still keep our lobby door closed for a little bit longer, just to keep the traffic down. We’re still asking all the COVID questions, we’re taking temperatures wearing masks, and so those things are still happening. I think it’s really important for people to know that it might not be as much in the news as you may have been used to, because we have so many other things going on in our nation right now that it’s still very much out there.
Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.: We want to make sure that people continue to stay safe and so, please know that we’re still taking protocols to make sure that that happens. And it is very safe for you to come to the office. If you’re curious about what is happening, we do a COVID-19 update every week on our website at complete-hearing.com. We also post things on our Facebook page. And so, great resources, just a place to go look, if you’re like, “Is it really safe for me to go see them?” I’m not sure because I would say some people are definitely putting off appointments right now, for safety concerns. And we completely understand that. Please know, when you are ready, we are taking lots of extra precautions to make sure you are safe from the time you come in, until the time you leave.
Dale Johnson: Get to know Complete Hearing at complete-hearing.com. And of course you can hear previous conversations from the show. All right, Cassie Larreau-Bailey has been kind enough to come back to continue the conversation that we started last weekend. Cassie, I see by your business card with the Nebraska Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, you are the walk manager. What is a walk manager?
Cassie Larreau-Bailey: Well, it is a fancy way of saying that I am a staff partner who gets to work with incredible volunteers who plan our Walk to End Alzheimer’s every year. I’m lucky enough I manage four of our events in central and Western Nebraska. So Grand Island, Kearney Hastings, and North Platte. We have a couple of staff out in Eastern Nebraska who manage our Lincoln Northfork, Omaha, and Sarpy County events as well.
Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.: With all the things that are going on and everything’s getting rescheduled, is the walk still happening this year?
Cassie Larreau-Bailey: Absolutely. One thing that we believe is important, especially in times like these, where we’ve seen increased isolation in our senior population, that we need to be able to come together in some way, to fight this disease and to stand together and to show our support. It will look a little bit different. The safety of our constituents, our volunteers, is at the top of our list. So whatever we do come out with, we’ll absolutely follow CDC guidelines. So walk will happen, it’s just going to look a little bit different this year.
Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.: Do you a date set for them. Probably several walks since we were thinking, “Which walk am I saying about?”
Cassie Larreau-Bailey: Yeah. We have eight walks across the state. So I can tell you my walk day is pretty comfortably. The other ones I’m not as comfortable with, but they span between the weekend after Labor Day, into the second weekend, I believe, in October. So there are multiple opportunities to get involved. If you have family across the state, even family across the country, really, we have over 600 walks that happened across the nation between September, October timeframe.
Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.: That’s wonderful. I was thinking a lot about your organization, in regards to the number of volunteers that it takes to make things happen and so, one thing we’re compassionate about at Complete Hearing is just being a part of our community. And so whether it’s breast cancer awareness or Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, we want to be connected to people who … These things impact our patients as well and we want to be joining the community with those things as well. So tell us a little bit about … I saw something on the website that really intrigued me, virtual volunteering. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Cassie Larreau-Bailey: Absolutely. Right now, most of our volunteering has turned virtual. We have, specifically towards Walk, we have volunteers right now who are helping us engage our team captains and those participants who have been involved with Walk, getting them excited, understanding Walk is going to look a little bit different this year, but it’s still happening. And especially now more than ever, our families are needing to feel connected. They are needing resources, special resources regarding COVID-19, how they can keep in touch with their family members. So the mission of the Alzheimer’s Association as moving forward, we always say Alzheimer’s is relentless and so are we, and we are a-
Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.: I love that.
Cassie Larreau-Bailey: Volunteer-powered organization. Yes. And so I can tell you there’s, I think, maybe 12 staff in the state of Nebraska, we’re a pretty small chapter, but we have hundreds of incredible and passionate volunteers. And it’s so easy to join our team. We have something that is for everybody. If you like making phone calls and having conversations and building those relationships, Walk is a great starting point. It’s the most visible thing we do. But we have a lot of other amazing opportunities, depending on what people’s interests and talents are.
Cassie Larreau-Bailey: One thing we offer right now is virtual education. And so we know that families are still needing information. We know that diagnoses are still happening. We know that families are walking this journey. So we have virtual education and those presentations range from very simple, know the 10 signs, the differences between normal aging and what might be cognitive decline, all the way to complicated topics. Like how do we better communicate with our loved ones who are living with dementia? How do we handle behaviors when they might occur because of this disease process? And we have volunteers that deliver those programs. So we train them, and then they are the ones who are working with our constituents and delivering that message.
Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.: I think about the fact that now we have an opportunity where we may have been never had this opportunity before, that we can encourage virtually, we can teach virtually. I think its opened a whole new door for many of the services, maybe for those people who are more remote, that can’t always access some services personally. Where this has been such a blessing for us too, that we can’t get into the facilities to do the job that we’ve been doing, but we can equip other people to do that. And I’m just so grateful that you have these volunteers who are able to do that, which is so wonderful. With hearing loss, what happens a lot of times is people wait too long. They have symptoms, but they don’t necessarily go right away and have things identified. Does that happen with diagnosis for dementia as well and Alzheimer’s ?
Cassie Larreau-Bailey: Absolutely. A lot of times people will say, “Oh, we went and we got our diagnosis. It’s Alzheimer’s.” And they’ll be in the middle stages, by that point.
Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.: Wow.
Cassie Larreau-Bailey: Unfortunately, when it gets to that point … There are three stages that we typically look at, early, middle, and late stages. Early stages are where you start to see maybe some irritation, some of that personality change. It can mimic depression, and like we’ve talked, other sensory losses as well. And it’s important to have that conversation early on because at that point, that person is still cognitive and aware and able to make decisions about what they want the process to look like, how they want that handled.
Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.: I love that. I think that-
Cassie Larreau-Bailey: And so-
Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.: Even bothering loss and correlating that to that when hearing loss is first noticed, or people are noticing things are not as clear or he or she is not engaging the way they used to, that we take action right away, because that just … If we can get stimulation happening right away, and we can have that person cognitively be aware and working with a … If it’s a hearing device that they need, that they’re more cognitively aware of how to use it and how to take care of it and how to wear it. Because when we get into the later stages, what happens is they’re not as willing, or, “I don’t want this on me,” typically what will happen, or they get lost. And so I love that you said first stage is kind of that awareness or this has happened. Now, what are the next steps we should do, to do some intervention with this?
Cassie Larreau-Bailey: Absolutely. To kind of piggyback off of what you were talking about, when families catch that in the very early stages, it can truthfully, be a game changer and how the disease process is handled and what it looks like. Because not only is that person able to help make those decisions for those family members, but when you catch it early stage, you can delay some of those symptoms. You have a greater chance at doing so. Some of the information was reading from our website actually, in regards to hearing loss, talked about the importance of hearing aids. We know that staying social and engaged is such a critical component in who we are as human beings. And it helps delay some of those symptoms that we see with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. To be engaged, you have to be able to hear.
Cassie Larreau-Bailey: And so hearing aids actually are a huge assistance in those early stages, if that is a factor in what is happening with that individual. And so, if a family has suspicions of a person is maybe feeling a little bit different, great language to use is to say, “Hey, if I noticed something was a little bit different about you, would you want me to tell you?” And to make sure that the right person is asking that question, of course. But then to have that open and honest conversation, and to look at some of those factors that might be contributing and how can we look and make some lifestyle changes. Whether it be hearing aids, if it’s to stay social and to maybe play some cards here and there, to do puzzles together, and have those important conversations.
Dale Johnson: Cassie, how can people find out the information that you’re speaking of? What’s a website?
Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.: Our website is alz.org/nebraska. It’s a great resource to get some information, to get a jumping point, to connect with local staff and with our help line.
Dale Johnson: Lot of good information there. Thank you, Dr. Miller for bringing Cassie Larreau-Bailey, from the Alzheimer’s Association, onto the show. And you can find a lot of information about hearing health at complete-hearing.com. Dr. Miller, we’ll talk again next week.
Dr. Sandra Miller Au.D.: Sounds great Dale. Thank you.