The Plattsburgh State Center for Neurobehavioral Health received a $7.5 million grant from New York state to be awarded over the next five years.

The purpose?

“To give emotional and financial support to New Yorkers living with Alzheimer’s disease and their families,” according to a Plattsburgh State press release.

According to the release, PSUC is only one of nine organizations that will receive funds during a five-year period.

The Center for Neurobehavioral Health, whose mission is to provide services to those affected by neurological disorders, consists of several offices on the PSUC campus: the Adirondack Regional Technology Center, Alzheimer’s Disease Assistance Center, Autism Intervention Programs, Eastern Adirondack Health Care Network, Neuropsychology Clinic and Psychoeducational Services, Northeastern New York and Community Services Program, the Third Age Adult Day Care Center and the Traumatic Brain Injury Center.

Michael Simpson, the director of the Office of Sponsored Research and Programs, said funds from this grant will bring about new jobs.

Simpson said the grant was proposed within the past year, from the state Department of Health and that the Center for Neurobehavioral Health acts as a resource for both Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers.

Alzheimer’s disease is debilitating: it is a form of dementia characterized by a slow, drawn-out memory loss. It comes in three stages: mild, moderate and severe, according to the website for the Alzheimer’s Association, alz.org, and it is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.

Mild Alzheimer’s disease occurs when the person functions normally but is prone to slight lapses in memory, such as forgetting familiar words or where one sets his or her keys.

During this time, it is common for friends and family to notice that something is different. Doctors may be able to pick up on certain cues after a detailed medical interview.

“Although the onset of Alzheimer’s disease cannot yet be stopped or reversed, an early diagnosis can allow a person the opportunity to live well with the disease for as long as possible and plan for the future,” the Alzheimer’s Association reported on its website.

Moderate Alzheimer’s disease is usually considered the longest of the three stages and can last for many years. While he or she may still remember significant details about their life, a patient with Alzheimer’s may have greater difficulty doing things like paying bills or even remembering what day it is. Some patients are reported as feeling “moody” or “withdrawn,” as nerve cells in the brain are damaged, and they find it hard to perform routine tasks.

Severe Alzheimer’s disease is its final stage. In this stage, individuals have difficulty talking and eventually, controlling their movement. Cognitive skills continue to worsen, and individuals with the disease will need help performing day-to-day tasks. This stage, according to alz.org, can last several weeks to several years. Eventually, patients will lose the ability to perform basic life functions, like the ability to talk or swallow.

Plattsburgh State reported in its release that “an estimated 1 million unpaid caregivers look after almost 380,000 New York residents living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The number of state residents with Alzheimer’s is expected to increase to 460,000 by 2025.”

“This is an awe-inspiring experience for me, and we are very excited to be given the opportunity to expand upon existing comprehensive support programs for caregivers in the North Country,” Clinical Director of the Center for Neurobehavioral Health said in the press release.

Ruby Lainez, a senior psychology major at PSUC, said she was told there would be people checking out the medical departments on campus, but other than that, she hadn’t known anything about the grant in particular.

Lainez works at Third Age Adult Day Care Center. During her morning shift, she sees about 20 people total; perhaps five or six of those people have Alzheimer’s disease, if not fewer.

The grant money will provide six new jobs at the Center for Neurobehavioral Health.

“It takes a lot to take care of someone who has Alzheimer’s,” Lainez said, adding that having a place where someone else can take care of them for a few hours can help reduce stress in caregivers’ lives.

Her grandmother has Alzheimer’s disease, and Lainez said she was in elementary school when her family noticed that something was wrong. Her grandmother now has a 12-hour aide to come into her home and take care of her, and there are other family members watching over her in the off-hours to ensure her safety and well-being.

“I can’t imagine forgetting everything that I’ve done for my entire life,” Lainez said.

Email Tim Lyman at timothy.lyman@cardinalpointsonline.com

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