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One in 10 Montanans is a veteran. Of those approximately 105,000 veterans, as many as one in 10 has Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association recently conducted a needs assessment in Yellowstone County to better understand the unique challenges of Montana’s 10,000 affected veterans and their family caregivers.

Findings from the needs assessment include:

The vast majority (73 percent) of veterans and their family members were unaware that veterans have an increased risk of developing dementia.

Veterans expressed difficulty gaining an early and accurate dementia diagnosis. (This reflects a national challenge. According to the 2018 Alzheimer’s Association Facts & Figures Report, “Because Alzheimer’s is underdiagnosed and underreported, a large portion of Americans with Alzheimer’s may not know they have it.”)

Additional insights were gleaned from community forums, with veterans and their families stating the need for comprehensive information about available VA benefits and resources following diagnosis. Attendees further noted the need for medical professionals to adapt to the subtleties of interacting with veterans living with dementia. Understanding wartime experiences and avoiding triggers could help mitigate challenging behaviors and responses of those living with dementia.

One step in addressing these gaps is education. At 2 p.m. on Jan. 9, the Alzheimer’s Association is hosting a free educational presentation entitled “Understanding Alzheimer’s and Dementia” at the Billings VA Outpatient Clinic. To RSVP or with other questions, call the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.

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Jacob Guinan

Americorps VISTA

Alzheimer’s Association

Billings

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