In late October, I’ll be going out to Los Angeles to attend a one-day symposium for people with early memory loss. The symposium, called “Living Our Lives, Planning Our Futures” will feature talks by David Shenk, the author of The Forgetting, and Dr. Gary Small, Director of the UCLA Center on Aging and author of several books on improving memory and brain health. The event is hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association California Southland Chapter, in cooperation with the University of Southern California (UCLA) and the UCLA Alzheimer’s Research Center.
The real meat of the program will be the eight breakout sessions on topics such as “Communications and Relationships,” “Stimulating the Brain,” and “Re-defining Early Stage Dementia.” Persons with early memory loss or dementia will be on session panels, and audience participation is encouraged.
The event is the brainchild of Rich Bozanich and Jay Smith, both of whom have been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Rich, a former journalist, and Jay, a former architect, met in a support group in southern California. When the New York chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association put on a conference for people with early memory loss, both men were intrigued. They decided to develop a similar conference in LA, and the local chapter agreed to help.
Now co-chairs of the symposium, Rich and Jay have worked for over a year to develop the event to meet the specific needs of persons with early memory loss, mild cognitive impairment and early-stage dementia. They chose the breakout session topics based on the results of a survey they sent out to members of various support groups.
“We have people planning to attend from New York, Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon, Hawaii, British Columbia, and Washington, D.C., among other places,” Rich says. He expects attendees will be a mix of persons with early memory loss, care partners and professionals.
Rather than the typical format - educational sessions for care partners and “day care” for persons with memory loss - all attendees will be welcome at all sessions. Jay and Rich hope that care partners and professionals will learn from the panelists and attendees who have memory loss.
The idea of services and support for persons with memory loss by persons with memory loss seems to be an emerging trend. Two online support groups, DASN International and DementiaUSA are run by persons with dementia. Another group, forMemory, is being organized to share information about treatments for early onset Alzheimer’s and related diseases. After all, who knows best what people with memory loss need?
The Early Memory Loss Forum will be held on October 27, 2007 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. For more information, please call 323-900-3180 or email [email protected]