Hopkins House hosting free seminar Saturday offering information about depression, memory loss in the elderly

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK, News-Telegram Managing Editor

June 26, 2008 - "Is it Alzheimer's?" That's the chilling, terrifying question some families must ask themselves when their aging loved ones begin to show signs of depression.

All the more reason that Hopkins House, a local assisted living facility, is holding a free seminar this weekend, bringing in licensed professional to talk about some of the issues facing the aged and their families.

The seminar, "Changes in the Elderly," will be presented by Verlin Conkle, a licensed professional counselor. Conkle, whose practice is located in Commerce and is affiliated with Presbyterian Hospital, is the program manager for the Heritage Program for Senior Adults. His counseling practice specializes in the emotional changes and needs of senior adults.

"Specifically, he's going to address depression and forgetfulness in the elderly," said Mike Norton, the resident sales manager for Hopkins House, an assisted living facility located at 809 Camp St. "This is purely a public service. It's something that needs to be done."

Here's telling statistic: Log onto Google and do an Internet search "depression senior citizens." The query should return somewhere in the neighborhood of 800,000 hits. A search for "memory loss" for the elderly will return around a quarter of a million results.

The fact that there are more than a million pages on the World Wide Web that address the issue of despondency and forgetfulness among our aging parents and grandparents, our elderly aunts and uncles and friends, underscores the fear and uncertainty many feel when faced with these issues.

At the forefront of this issue is the prospect that these symptoms may indicate the onset of Alzheimer's disease. According to a report by the Meninger Clinic, an international psychiatrist center in Houston, depression is the most common psychiatric illness confused with Alzheimer's disease, because so many of the symptoms are similar: personality and mood changes; difficulty concentrating, and loss of zest for even favorite activities.

Alzheimer's affects an estimated million Americans 65 or older, while serious symptoms of depression affect nearly 5 million in the same age group. But neither disease is a normal part of aging, and early diagnosis and treatment of either illness is important to making daily life more enjoyable. Consequently, families that become more informed of the similarities have a stronger arsenal to help their loved ones.

"Depression in our senior adults, more often than not, goes unrecognized until it is too late," said Tiffany Bassham, residence director at Hopkins House. "Verlin Conkle presents information that is invaluable to families or anyone with an interest in senior adults."

Bassham went on to say that the information Conkle presents is both understandable and "immediately helpful."

The program is scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., but Conkle will also take individual questions after his presentation.

"He indicated that sometimes the questions and answers can go on for a long time," Norton said.

The seminar is open to the public and free; no RSVP is necessary. Refreshments will be served. Hopkins House is located at 890 Camp St., one block west of Joe Bob's Too convenience store on League Street.

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