Northern Nevada Walk to End Alzheimer’s volunteers Barbara Stockton and Mary Torbik set up pinwheels and signs for the organization’s Promise Garden display in front of the Nevada Capitol on Thursday to raise awareness about the need for more support for patients, caregivers and anyone impacted by dementia. Stockton was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment in 2017. (Jessica Garcia/Nevada Appeal )
Northern Nevada Walk to End Alzheimer’s volunteer Barbara Stockton first had a psychologist tell her she was developing the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s in 2017. She followed up with a visit to a neurologist at Stanford University, who determined she had mild cognitive impairment and had Stockton complete three different trials in various Zoom meetings.
“I just go on; if I forget something, I move on to the next stage,” Stockton said.
Since then, Stockton has become an advocate for others like herself, meeting with U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen to share her story about what it has been like to be tested, diagnosed and have discussions about the type of care she might need.
The Northern Nevada Walk to End Alzheimer’s planted a Promise Garden on Thursday, a bed of colorful pinwheels, honoring those who have a connection to Alzheimer’s and dementia, in front of the Nevada Capitol to remain through Saturday.
The Promise Garden, set up by NNWEA volunteers including Stockton and staff members, is intended to raise awareness and inspire legislators to take action this session to dedicate funding for Alzheimer’s research. Currently, there is at least one bill under consideration for Nevada, according to NNWEA dementia care director Charles Duarte. He said Thursday it’s important not to be afraid to get diagnosed if one is showing symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
“If you can get a diagnosis, whether it’s mild, mild cognitive decline or early stage, then you can be a participant in your own care plan,” he said. “Sometimes (people) are not even self-aware enough to understand they’re having problems with memory or confusion.”
Assembly Bill 216 under consideration would require the state plan for Medicaid to include coverage for cognitive assessment and care planning services.
“Medicare covers it, but the Medicaid program for people that aren’t on Medicare – older folks, the Medicaid program in Nevada, doesn’t cover it,” Duarte said.
Duarte said the Commission on Aging created the proposal, which was then adopted by the Legislative Committee on Senior Citizens, Veterans and Adults with Special Needs headed by Sen. Pat Spearman, D-Las Vegas, and he said he hopes it will pass to assist seniors as well as those who have younger onset dementia.
Efforts also will be directed toward educating physicians and those involved with cognitive screenings, he added.
Barbara Singer, who facilitates two support groups for caregivers, also was assisting with the planting of the pinwheels for the Promise Garden on Thursday, saying giving support for those who take care of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients is equally important. Some caregiver group meetings now take place by Zoom because of COVID-19 and what’s occurred because of the pandemic, but receiving suggestions and relief through regular conversations is a regular need for those who aren’t able to embrace each physically like they used to, Singer said.
“It tells them they’re not alone, but they’re still working with caregiving, and that’s a very important thing,” Singer said. “We’re a family now, and that’s how we feel about it. I’ve lost eight people now (to Alzheimer’s) since COVID. It’s really sad sometimes.”
Singer began working with the NNWEA more than eight years ago because her mother and five of her siblings had a form of dementia and she wanted to help. She attended many workshops to learn how to become a facilitator.
Mission chair Laurel Lipkin said in addition to the display, the association also has a committee that meets to organize a “mission moment” for someone affected by Alzheimer’s or dementia to celebrate their story.
Lipkin, a retired registered nurse, said she hopes to see an end to the disease so her own children or grandchildren won’t be affected by it.
She said throughout her own career, while medications have come and gone, at least one benefit has come from better education and research on dementia.
“They’re promotion more healthy eating habits, diets and exercise and watching stress levels and doing what we need to do to take care of ourselves,” she said. “And more people are getting involved in trials, and these don’t necessarily include medications. Some people think they’re going to be guinea pigs, but they’re not.”
The group said it will continue its focus on spreading its message statewide digitally and through social media ads next.
Duarte said making sure caregivers in particular get the help they need is a top priority.
“It’s a big job for people,” he said. “They lose their jobs, they sacrifice a lot. We’re supporting the budget and dollars for respite caregivers who really need to take a break from caregiving.”