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By Tina Fisher Cunningham
Fisher Forde Media 

Alzheimer's Assoc. fighting for the first survivor

The Forde Files No. 197


August 31, 2019

Tina Fisher Cunningham

Ashley Sodergren

Dr. Alois Alzheimer of Munich, Germany identified the disease known as Alzheimer's in 1906. The Alzheimer's Association, the umbrella organization that funds research, education and resources, was founded in 1980. By comparison, the American Cancer Society began in 1913.

"We are late in the game regarding research," Ashley Sodergren, regional director, Kern and Tulare Counties, told the Kiwanis Club of Tehachapi in presentations during two recent meetings.

"It is a public health issue that could bankrupt the economy by 2050," she said. "Dr. Alzheimer started research in 1920, but it was not talked about."

Today, resources are available. The Alzheimer's Association is the largest not-for-profit research organization in the world, Sodergren said. 

"We can be the voice of those living with the disease and those caring for those with the disease."

Alzheimer's, she said, is the third leading cause of death in California and the 6th leading cause of death nationally. 

"There is no treatment, no prevention, no cure. I want to put myself out of a job. There are no survivors. We are fighting for the first survivor."

Alzheimer's, Sodergren said, is not normal aging. It can begin to develop 20 to 30 years before symptoms become apparent. Researchers seek to prevent mild cognitive impairment from progressing to dementia, and they are investigating protein plaques that affect the brain neurons.

"We are pushing hard for early diagnosis," Sodergren said. 

Dementia is the umbrella term for Alzheimer's, vascular-caused diseases, Lewy bodies and frontotemporal deterioration.

The disease is not psychological. "It is a neurological brain disease and there is no way to erase it. We can treat some symptoms."

There is a connection between heart health and brain health, she said, as the heart and vascular system need to provide fresh oxygen to the brain. 

It is the most expensive disease, she said, costing $290 billion in the United States for care.

"The average cost of care is $8,000 a month."

The diagnosis rate is less than 50 percent, and only 50 percent of those are told of the diagnosis, and 2 percent get a care plan. 

Seminars on warning signs and understanding the disease are held in Tehachapi. Caregiver support groups meet every month. Reservations are required. Call 661-912-3053.

For information, support services and knowledgeable advocates, call the 24/7 helpline 800-272-3900 or online at


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