The Alzheimer's Association - Desert Southwest Chapter will host its 23rd annual conference on Feb. 28 at the East Valley Institute of Technology. [Courtesy Alzheimer's Association - Desert Southwest Chapter]

Courtesy Alzheimer's Association - Desert Southwest Chapter

An upcoming event hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association Desert Southwest Chapter will provide attendees with a wealth of options for a disease starting to affect more and more Arizonans.

Scheduled for Feb. 28 at the East Valley Institute of Technology (1601 W. Main Street, Mesa), the organization’s 23rd conference will feature 28 breakout sessions expected to cover a host of issues. Experts in areas like memory loss, caregiver stress, communication, behavior, legal and financial issues, and illness management will speak at the event, according to a press release. The conference is intended for people caring for a person with memory loss, as well as people in the early stages of the disease or a related dementia.

“This is one way we can help people understand the disease,” said Central Region Director Cindy Vargo.

Vargo said the event might be the largest educational conference of its kind in Arizona, and said attendance has growing by hundreds of people yearly for more than two decades.

One of the reasons it keeps gaining traction is the number of people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia or have to care for those people. According to information provided by the Association Desert Southwest Chapter, slightly fewer than one-third of seniors who die in a given year have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, and the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is expected to increase by 67 percent in 2025 when compared to figures from the year 2000. The diseases also have financial ramifications attached to them, as nationwide costs to care for those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia costs approximately $203 billion in 2013.

The expenses of care is partly due to the long-term nature of Alzheimer’s. Vargo said while there’s no way to slow it down or even stop the disease, it takes a long time for the disease to take effect.

“Diagnoses of Alzheimer’s Disease doesn’t mean you’ll die tomorrow or next month,” she said. She added it does provide those in the early stages time to enjoy life before the more severe symptoms start to hit.

She said the number of people with Alzheimer’s is increasing in the East Valley area, especially given the state’s growing elderly population base in Mesa, Chandler and Tempe.

Exacerbating the growth is the nature of the diseases, as Vargo noted people losing their mental capacities and those who care for them can often feel isolated. It can even lead to a shortened lifespan for caregivers; Vargo said caregivers have a 63-percent chance of dying before people within their age group unless they receive some support.

“It such a challenging disease with all of the physical and emotional (stress) ... it becomes a 24/7 commitment to that individual,” she said.

Registration for the event is $50 for individuals and $70 for professionals; the latter group includes nursing home administrators, assisted living facility managers and activity professionals. Lunch and conference materials are provided along with registration. For more information, or to become a corporate sponsor, contact Mindy Wakefield at (602) 528-0545 or visit

Contact writer: (480) 898-5647 or


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