There has been no avoiding the frightening facts and figures behind Alzheimer’s while I have been working on my master’s project, which focuses on the disease and the implications it has on family caregivers. It’s this closeness with the subject and the background information that causes me to forget that not everyone shares this interest with me. Not everyone knows how many people die each year from Alzheimer’s (500,000), or that 1 in 3 seniors dies with this disease. Not everyone knows what it is like to have a family member who has Alzheimer’s, but as the numbers rise, it’s likely that they will one day.
I realize that it’s not that people don’t care, although one caregiver I spoke with said that most people don’t care about something until it affects them or someone close to them. I think people just don’t realize the implications this disease has for everyone. I read an article from the Huffington Post this week that lists 12 things you might not know about Alzheimer’s. I’m going to summarize it below, but feel free to go read the article yourself here.
- “Alzheimer’s is a fiscal nightmare.”
- “Rates will quadruple.” Experts say that in the next 35 years, the number of those who will develop Alzheimer’s will quadruple. The article says, “If you’re over 65, you stand a one-in-eight chance of getting the disease. Once you pass 85, your odds jump (or fall) to nearly one-in-two.”
- “Alzheimer’s is the third deadliest disease in the U.S.” I’ve seen different reports on this number, but either way it’s in the top ten, and if we can do something to change that number, we need to be doing it.
- “Alzheimer’s is endlessly destructive.” The article reminds us that Alzheimer’s does much more than steal a person’s memory. There are other destructive symptoms that develop as the disease progresses. In fact, there are seven stages, often ending with the person losing their ability to control movement.
- “There may be many kinds of Alzheimer’s.” Alzheimer’s might be similar to cancer in that there might be many different types, which makes finding a cure even more difficult. The article says, “When John Wayne had cancer, it was called “the cancer.” Now there are dozens of kinds of cancer.”
- You can be a “dementia friend.” Some countries are starting programs that train citizens who have jobs that require them to work directly with customers to understand the disease so they can better serve those who have it. This might help clear up the stigmas that follow Alzheimer’s.
- “High-tech solutions are coming.” The article says that dementia friendly technology is being developed. The homes of those who have this disease might one day contain technology that allows them to live somewhat more independently than they can today.
- “There is even progress on Diagnosis.”
- “Big data” may uncover solutions and help solve some of these issues.”
- “New Care Models for the 21st Century.” We are learning new ways to train family caregivers so that they are better equipped to take care of their loved one at home. This could mean fewer Alzheimer’s patients in nursing homes, and even less of an expense on the family.
- “Prevention Before Cure.” Since we haven’t found a cure yet, some say we should be focused on prevention in the meantime. Diet and exercise can decrease a person’s chances of developing the disease.
- “An unexpected advocacy push.” I wrote a post a few weeks about Seth Rogen and his charity for Alzheimer’s. I wrote another post a few days later about former North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith, who has Alzheimer’s. This celebrity advocacy and open conversation about Alzheimer’s is exactly what the Huffington Post article is talking about, and in my opinion, is coming at just the right time. It’s the reason this disease is getting so much attention right now.