Seattle Foundation Blog

Giving Lab: UW Program Charting New Path for Living with Memory Loss

"Educating the public to understand the entire course of Alzheimer's disease and the strengths a person retains in the midst of it is critical to a community's ability to address, both individually and collectively, the impact of the disease."


August 10, 2016

By Mary Grace Roske, Vice President, Marketing & Communications

Seattle’s long been known for its cutting edge research in many areas of medicine, and the University of Washington’s work with Alzheimer’s disease is another case in point.  Thomas J. Grabowski MD, UW Professor of Radiology and Neurology and Director of the Memory and Brain Wellness Center recently visited Seattle Foundation and shared the center’s work and opportunities where philanthropic support can help move the work forward.

Opened in 2012, the Memory and Brain Wellness Center focuses on helping people to live well with memory loss, research around “precision medicine” treatment of Alzheimer’s, and community education to help reframe, through a public health and education framework, how people view memory loss.

While the research around causes of treatment of the disease is one aspect of the Center’s work, Grabowski devoted most of our Giving Lab to talking about helping people who have memory loss to live well. For a community to thrive there are essential aspects of society that need to be supported. Addressing the challenges around health and wellness, like the work of Grabowski and the center, ties to Seattle Foundation’s Healthy Community framework. Aiding people with special needs, such as those experiencing memory loss, and creating supportive communities to them also fits into the Foundation’s focus on vibrant communities.

“Seattle is one of the best cities to live with in terms of community awareness and social empowerment around memory loss,” he said.  “We are on our way to becoming one of the world’s “most dementia friendly” cities.” The Center’s efforts and a growing grassroots movement called “Momentia,” are driving this campaign.  

Grabowski points to the city’s parks and recreation programming serving people with memory loss, activities at Woodland Park Zoo, community gardening projects, the growing number of Alzheimer’s cafes, and more. 

Grabowski’s team supports this work through its community outreach and education activities.  They aim to dispel the common ideas that Alzheimer’s dementia strikes without warning, affects everything and leaves no hope for living well.  “Educating the public to understand the entire course of Alzheimer’s disease and the strengths a person retains in the midst of it is critical to a community’s ability to address, both individually and collectively, the impact of the disease.”

Early diagnosis is key, he says, to early treatment and opportunities to delay the onset.  Evidence of some types of Alzheimer’s can be found in people more than a decade before dementia occurs and 30 percent of people aged 65 and older are pre-symptomatic.  Educating the public about the facts behind the disease and creating awareness in the community about the needs, capabilities and support for people with Alzheimer’s is critical given the number of cases will triple by 2050. 

Support for the community education and outreach work is a critical area of need.  There is currently one full-time staff member devoted to this work and Grabowski sees a great need to expand this work.  If you are interested in learning more, contact Dr. Grabowski or Marigrace Becker at (206) 744-2017.      

The Center sums up its mission in this way:  “We envision a world in which people live well with memory loss and can rely upon the best care, within a 

community of support.”  A worthy cause, indeed.

What is Giving Lab?  Giving Labs are designed to provide philanthropists with additional information and insight into effective strategies and investments to address important community challenges.  

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