Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What Will It Take?

The Alzheimer's Association Logo
What will it take for Alzheimer’s and dementia to get the attention it needs? What will it take to raise awareness and obtain funding? What will it take for purple to represent November like pink represents October for breast cancer month?

My family and I went to a program put on by The Daughter’s Club of the Alzheimer’s Association Cleveland Area Chapter tonight entitled “A Nation Responds to the Alzheimer’s Crisis.” This was a great program with speaker Robert J. Egge, the Alzheimer’s Association’s Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy. He gave a compelling and easy to understand talk about how Alzheimer’s is a national crisis and the things we need to do to combat it. He had many great points this evening, and there are a few I would like to highlight.

First he said that we have, for too long, talked around Alzheimer’s and what the disease is like instead of being honest about what happens. He said, “Alzheimer’s disease incapacitates and then it kills.” Until people start to know the severity of the disease, they will not want to work for a cure.

He also talked about how by 2050, because of the Baby Boomer generation, Alzheimer’s disease will increase substantially. (for facts and figures, see my previous post The Future of Alzheimer’s). But, what really hit home for me is that for every one of us, if we live to be 85 years or older, we have, on average, a 42% chance of getting Alzheimer’s. That is if you have no preexisting indicators for the disease then the percentage goes up. This is a disease that affects almost half of the population who lives to be 85 or older. Do people understand that every single one of us, after age 85, has a 42% chance of getting this disease? That is a huge risk, and many of us are living well into our late 80’s.

We also saw statistics for the death rates of different diseases from 2000-2007. Death from HIV has gone down 22%, death from breast cancer has gone down 3.1%, and death from stroke has decreased by 8.9%. However, death from Alzheimer’s has INCREASED 50.6%.

And finally, for those of us who are concerned about the financial burden this disease puts on our nation, if we figured out how to just delay the onset of Alzheimer’s by 5 years, we could decrease what we spend on the disease by 50%.

These all seem like pretty compelling facts as to why we need to raise awareness and put a lot of funding into research.

Most compelling to me though is hearing the stories of people who live with dementia and the stories of how dementia affects the patients loved ones. It is a devastating  illness where the patient looses everything about who they are. They lose their memories, and often even their personality. The sweet father you once knew can become an angry, volatile man who does not recognize you anymore. People die knowing nothing of who they are or what their life was like. That’s why we need to fight to end this crisis.

I am so thankful for the Alzheimer’s Association and all the wonderful people we met this evening who are willing to work together to make a difference. It gives families like us hope and patients like my Mom the knowledge that people care about her.

What can you do right now, right this second? Sign up at HERE with the Alzheimer’s Association to be an advocate and they will send you monthly updates on how we can make a difference.


Rev. Katie

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