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With Alzheimer's on the rise, two nonprofits are hosting empathy-building experiences in Homer

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Hope McKenney
The nonprofits Hospice of Homer and Alzheimer’s Resource of Alaska are putting on four events in Homer this week to raise awareness and provide support for residents with Alzheimer’s disease, and related disabilities, and their caregivers.

Alzheimer’s disease is on the rise across the country, and advocates are working to share up-to-date research and resources, and combat stigma for those affected.

With a mortality rate of more than twice that of Breast Cancer and Prostate Cancer combined, Alzheimer’s is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. according to the Alzheimer's Research Association. Currently, about 5.4 million people in the country have the disease and by 2050, that number’s expected to grow to 13 million.

In Homer, the nonprofits Alzheimer’s Resource of Alaska and Hospice of Homer are putting on four events this week to raise awareness and provide support for residents with Alzheimer’s disease, and related disabilities, and their caregivers.

On Thursday, March 16, at 6 p.m., there is a free showing of Alive Inside, at the Homer Theatre. The Sundance Audience Award-winning documentary is about music’s effect on memory.

The film will be followed by a discussion about living with Alzheimer’s and related disabilities. Specifically, participants can discuss how music has had a personal impact on their lives.

Then on Saturday, starting at 10 a.m., Alzheimer’s Resource of Alaska is hosting a series of local discussions focused on forming connections and effectively communicating with people experiencing cognitive changes.

The series is free and open to everyone and will be located at Hospice of Homer next to Captains’ Coffee on Pioneer Avenue. Later on, between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., there will be slots to sign up for a 15-minute long Virtual Dementia Tour at their offices.

The “empathy-building experience” involves specialized goggles, gloves and headphones that simulate what it's like living with Alzheimer’s. Then participants are given a few tasks to complete while wearing the gear.

Morgan Lambert, a bereavement consultant from Hospice of Homer, experienced the tour and said it was a life-changing experience.

When you experience it in that way, you realize there's so much more that is actually happening to that person that they can’t express to you. And it really gives you so much compassion for somebody going through that. It's just so powerful,” she said during KBBI’s Coffee Table on Wednesday. “I really wish everybody could experience it because it changes your relationship to how you see that illness and diagnosis.”

The Virtual Dementia Tour will be back again on Sunday, starting at 10 a.m. That will be followed by a discussion with Debbie Julik, an education specialist with Alzheimer’s Resource of Alaska in Homer.

“I'll talk about some of the signs and signals of normal aging," Julik said. "Then we'll talk about some of the warning signs of aging.”

She said the goal is to normalize the aging process and provide some indicators of memory loss.

The interactive discussion will take place at Kachemak Bay Campus from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

You can schedule a slot for the Virtual Dementia Tour ahead of time by calling (907) 235-6899.

Simon Lopez is a long time listener of KBBI Homer. He values Kachemak Bay’s beauty and its overall health. Simon is community oriented and enjoys being involved in building and maintaining an informed and proactive community.
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