We have a bit of a problem on our hands. Alzheimer’s Disease is devastating the lives of MILLIONS of people. Yet somehow…the disease and organizations fighting it remain largely in the wings. Maybe its because Alzheimer’s victims are, more often than not, elderly (except for early onset – which deserves its own blog post). Maybe it’s because someone can live for years with the disease, unlike other terminal illnesses. But make no mistake, Alzheimer’s Disease has a devastating domino effect that upends the lives of its victims, family members, and caretakers. Here is what you should know:
What does Alzheimer’s Disease do, exactly?
Alzheimer’s is a progressive, degenerative brain disease that destroys memory, thinking, and behavior. Symptoms usually begin slowly – presenting in behavioral changes (bursts of anger, increasing confusion, changes in personality) – and gets worse over time (often over a number of years). On average, a person with Alzheimer’s lives four to eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years.
In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but by late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to speak, to eat, to remember the names and faces of their family members and loved ones, and even to breathe.
Who is at risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease?
Here’s the short answer: anyone with a brain.
More than 5 million American’s are living with Alzheimer’s Disease. Worldwide, 50 million people are living with dementia.
Alzheimer’s Disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, Alzheimer’s Disease kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
Is there a cure?
No. Alzheimer’s Disease has no vaccine, no drugs to stop the progression of the disease, and there is no cure.
1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
As Im writing this, Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost the country $305 billion. By 2050, these costs could rise as high as $1.1 trillion.
Why you should care (if those statistics didn’t convince you already)
Alzheimer’s Disease not only robs its victim of their memory – it robs them of their life. Steven Leder said it best: ” It is a disease that kills people twice: once when the mind is lost and once when the body mercifully wears out. Both deaths are painful, but each in its unique way.”
For my Dad, the first death caused him to forget who my Mom was (his wife of 20+ years) and who I was. Really, it caused him to forget who HE was. A self made man; A second generation Mexican-American; An orphan who enlisted in the Navy and used the G.I. Bill to put himself through college. A man who worked alongside Andy Warhol, taught at Pratt School of Design, and started his own graphic design business. A man who built the life he always wanted….only to lose it, right after a well deserved retirement. A retirement he never got to enjoy. The second death came once his body started to break down.
16 million Americans – usually family members or friends – are providing unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s Disease – an estimated 18.6 billion hours of care, valued at $244 billion.
50% of primary care physicians believe the medical profession is not ready for the growing number of people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.
How you can help
Join the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement – the advocacy arm of the Alzheimer’s Association – here.
Donate & join my team for The Longest Day