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It's often said that Alzheimer's disease really strikes two people: the patient and the caregiver. The demands on family members and other caregivers can be formidable, often leading to physical, emotional and financial distress.

Helping family members dealing with the challenges of caring for a loved one is one of the goals of this year's Alzheimer's conference, organized by the Joseph and Kathleen Bryan Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (ADRC) at Duke University. The 19th annual conference, themed "Alzheimer's 2005: Imagine the Future," will be held at the Durham Marriott, near the Duke campus in downtown Durham, on Thursday, Feb 10, 2005.

Lisa Gwyther, the ADRC's education director and one of the conference organizers, said the event will feature updates on the latest advances in Alzheimer's research, as well as practical information for patients, families and other caregivers.

"This conference is really about translating what Alzheimer's research means, in terms of the individual and the family, and especially how they can use this information in caring for their relative and in caring for themselves," Gwyther said.

"One of the things we've learned about families caring for a loved one is that self-care is very important," Gwyther continued. "There are a number of self-care and support programs in North Carolina. One of this year's workshops will feature a new program called 'Support Team,' which creates an informal community of friends, neighbors and church members to help individual families caring for patients in their own homes."

Two highlights of this year's daylong conference are:

• 'Live from the Lab' – a narrated tour of the Bryan ADRC affiliated neuroscience laboratories. This is an opportunity to learn about current and future research-based studies seeking to identify early markers for the disease, as well as new diagnostic techniques and innovative treatment strategies; and

• 'Behind the Exam Room Door' – The ADRC clinic team will provide a preview of what to expect from a research clinic experience. "Many people wonder what happens when a person diagnosed with Alzheimer's goes to an academic health center to potentially participate in research," said Gwyther. "We'll show what happens on this initial visit, what they'll see, what they're told and why, and why this testing is so important." Note: limited number of participants.

Gwyther says the conference is an opportunity for collaboration and information-sharing among all the groups involved in the struggle against Alzheimer's.

"What we try to do at this conference is make sure that patients, families and health professionals are on the same wavelength as the scientific researchers, that they have the same access to information in a way that they can use it, so that we're all working together."

To learn more about "Alzheimer's 2005: Imagine the Future," call toll-free 1-800-646-2028 or visit the Bryan Alzheimer's Disease Research Center website.