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The South Florida Roundup

Settlement for owners in Surfside, and the expected jump of Alzheimer's in Florida


A settlement has been reached for the families of victims and survivors of the Champlain Towers South collapse in Surfside. Plus, new research predicts Florida will have one of the fastest growing rates of Alzheimer’s Dementia by the middle of this decade.

This week a Miami judge okayed a financial settlement for the owners and heirs of owners of condominiums in the Champlain Tower South building. It collapsed last summer, killing 98 people.

Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Michael Hanzman okayed the $83 million deal. It pays each of the owners of the 136 units in the building proportionally, but much less than the appraised value.

The judge agreed that the settlement will be contingent on the property getting at least $120 million in an auction.

WLRN’s healthcare reporter Verónica Zaragovia said the payout will be roughly even, but there is some understanding that it’ll also vary depending on how much ownership the owners had of the unit.

“Further details on that allocation will probably be handled closer to then,” she said.

She said the amount they decided on comes from the more than $50 million of insurance payouts. This amount was decided after a lengthy mediating process.

The newly elected mayor of Surfside, Shlomo Danzinger, called for a special commission meeting Tuesday to exclusively talk about Champlain Tower South and the community’s desire for a memorial to the tragedy.

They first tackled what a temporary memorial sign could look like. Veronica said it might have the words “gone, but not forgotten” on it, snd the names of the 98 victims.

The commission also decided to hold a memorial event June 24. They will meet again to plan for that in May, and they will meet again April 12 to finalize the temporary memorial.

Florida’s projected increase in Alzheimer’s diagnoses

Florida is getting older. Some of the fastest growing age groups in the state are those 65 years old and older. One out of every five Floridans is over the age of 65.

And Florida also is home to one of the fastest rising rates of Alzheimer’s Dementia. The 2022 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Report from the Alzheimer’s Association projects almost three quarters of a million people in Florida will have Alzheimer’s Dementia by 2025.

Alzheimer’s Dementia is a disease that affects the brain. It eats away at one’s memory and other mental functions. Currently there is no cure.

Joe Baldelomar, Program Manager of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Southeast Florida Chapter, said that the increase stems from better disease-detecting technology as well as a growing population of people who are aging.

“10 years ago, the only way that you could find out that somebody was affected by Alzheimer’s was through an autopsy,” he said.

Biomarkers are one example of technological advancements aiding in diagnosing Alzheimer’s. Biomarkers are the measures used to assess health states in the body, such as using blood to check blood sugar.

Baldelomar said they are researching how to use the eye as a biomarker for diabetes, and hopefully down the line using a similar, less invasive method to detect Alzheimer’s in patients.

Early detection is important, and the Alzheimer’s Association has a guide showing the ten warning signs of Alzheimer’s. That can be viewed here.

Dr. Lisa Wiese, Associate Professor of Nursing at the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing at Florida Atlantic University, described Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias as life-course diseases.

Exposure to things such as trauma, neglect and nutrition loss at a young age can predispose one to these diseases down the line.

Dr. Wiese wants everyone to understand that living a brain-healthy lifestyle can help prevent or delay the onset of dementia.

“We now know there are 12 modifiable risk factors that we can change to improve our risk,” she said.

Some of these include getting enough uninterrupted sleep every night, exercising and socializing. A full list of these factors can be found here.

Early detection of possible cognitive decline can make a difference by:

  • Increasing the awareness of the need to change one’s health behaviors, which can decrease risk.
  • Determining if medications or illnesses that are not well-managed are increasing risk.
  • Planning ahead for care that will be needed if a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias is made.

Dr. Wiese suggests that we need to adopt proactive attitudes about maintaining brain health. The same way we may regularly get our blood pressure checked, the same has to happen with our brain health.

There are multiple ways to get a baseline reading of your cognitive health. Check first with your provider, or at a brain health center, such as the Louis and Anne Green Memory and Wellness Center at Florida Atlantic University, or the Comprehensive Center for Brain Health at the University of Miami.

To learn more about the warning signs of Alzheimer's, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs has information here

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Natu Tweh is WLRN's Morning Edition Producer. He also reports on general news out of South Florida.