Free Alzheimer’s conference coming to Atlanta next month

Conference will feature experts in brain health, caregiving, and elder law

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is hosting a free conference in Atlanta next month designed to provide information, tools, and support for families facing Alzheimer’s, the most common type of dementia, a progressive disease that takes a heavy toll on patients and their loved ones.

The March 15 conference at the Miller-Ward Alumni House at Emory University will feature experts in brain health, caregiving, and elder law. Memory screenings, a simple evaluation tool that checks memory and other thinking skills, will also be offered. While these memory screenings can’t, on their own, diagnose dementia, they can signal whether an additional check-up by a health care provider for Alzheimer’s and other dementias is needed. Experts also stress many different conditions can cause memory issues, including vitamin deficiencies, urinary tract infections, stress, anxiety, and depression.

Advanced registration is highly recommended.

Though the greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s is increasing age, the disease is not a normal part of aging. There are about 150,000 people in Georgia living with Alzheimer’s disease and those numbers are growing rapidly, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

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Alzheimer’s disease is a debilitating illness that progresses over time. Early signs of Alzheimer’s include problems with memory and communication, and a failing sense of direction. Ultimately, the body shuts down after years of mental deterioration.

Dr. Monica Parker, a geriatric doctor at Emory Healthcare encouraged family members who see a loved one who may be in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s to pay attention to unusual or concerning behavior and take notes. Compare notes with family members, and take your written observations to a doctor’s appointment with your loved one.

Parker said early detection of memory impairment is extremely important. While primary doctors are often the first step to talking about memory concerns, Parker said they can make referrals to a Georgia Memory Net Memory Assessment Clinic, which can provide thorough evaluations and diagnosis.

Parker who is also the director of both the Outreach, Recruitment and Education (ORE) and Minority Engagement Cores (MEC) at Emory’s Goizueta Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, an early diagnosis can help someone get access to more treatment options to help lessen symptoms and potentially slow down the progression of the disease, allow someone an opportunity to participate in clinical trials, and give families more time to assemble a long-term health care plan, review legal documents and set up a support network.

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Metro Atlanta’s aging population is growing quickly. In fact, our region is one of the fastest-aging in the country, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission. In 2021, more than 870,000 people ages 60 and older lived in the 10-county region. That’s nearly one in five people. By 2050, that population is expected to almost double to 1.9 million and the share of people 60 and over will be close to 25 percent or one in four residents.

But while there is no cure for or preventive medicine that can stop dementia and its most common form, Alzheimer’s disease, a growing body of research suggests a healthy lifestyle can potentially lower your risk. Research suggests exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables and lean proteins, staying mentally and socially active, and keeping blood pressure at a healthy level can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Parker is also a caregiver for her mother who is 97 and moved in with her a few years ago. Reflecting on her personal experience, she said it’s important to delegate tasks and create a network of support. She hired caregivers who come to her home during the day while she is working. Her husband also assists, taking her mother to doctor’s appointments and he often makes dinner.

She also urges people who are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s to take a caregiving training class, which is typically free and offered by local organizations including the Alzheimer’s Foundation and AARP. They can better understand how the disease progresses and help them prepare for the many challenges of caring for someone with the disease.

“There certainly moments that can be overwhelming, but for many of the people who choose to take care of their relatives, there are moments of great joy that they are very grateful for,” said Parker. “I’m so happy that I have a mother and my mother is with me every day and I have the opportunity to dress her up, make her cute, give her something she likes or enjoys. And every once in a while if she can muster up enough energy to say it, she’ll say ‘I love you.’ And I’m fine with that.”

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America free Alzheimer’s & Caregiving Educational Conference

10 a.m-1 p.m March 15; Miller-Ward Alumni House, 815 Houston Mill Road NE, Atlanta.

Free, confidential memory screenings will be conducted throughout the day. The conference will include experts in brain health and caregiving, as well as an elder law attorney.

Registration is highly recommended. To register, go to