Social Worker Darby Morhardt explains the likelihood of a women getting Alzheimer's if her mother had the disease.
I am Darby Morhardt. I am with the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. I am a clinical social worker by education, and I have been working clinically with patients and families for the past 25 years, particularly with persons with dementia and their families.
I have primarily worked in the outpatient setting. Our center is one of the 27 Alzheimer’s disease centers funded by the National Institute on Aging. So our focus for the center is to conduct research on Alzheimer’s disease, to find new, better treatments for it, to understand how the brain functions, and to, as we understand how the brain functions better, we then can help to, those treatments, it helps facilitate the discovery of, again, those perhaps new and better treatments that can then be transferred, the benefits can be transferred to patients and to families.
So we do a lot of outreach in education in the community, and we are also, as people have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in the earlier stages of the illness, we have started some unique programs, programs that didn’t exist prior to maybe ten years ago, and those are programs for persons in the earliest stages of the illness.
Like anything, if you have the disease in your family or parent has it or another relative has it, particularly a first degree relative, you are at a greater risk, and that’s for anything, heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease is part of that. But there’s no prediction that you will get it, and the way the research is going now, we are better understanding ways of keeping ourselves healthy.
We are finding the exercise, social stimulation, don’t be isolated if you have, you know, mental health issues, depression, to get them treated, and the more that you stay physically and mentally healthy, you may be lowering your risk for getting Alzheimer’s disease.
Really, age is the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, so if we all live long enough, it’s quite inevitable that we will get Alzheimer’s. What we all want to do is try to keep ourselves from getting it for as long as possible so that, and living as well as we can for as long as possible.
About Darby Morhardt, M.S.W., L.C.S.W.:
Darby Morhardt is a research associate professor, the Director of Education, and a clinical research social worker at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Her research interests include early stage and Younger Onset dementia programs and services, the dynamics and functioning of caregiving families, the subjective experience of Alzheimer's disease, and primary care physician education.