Septem­ber is Na­tional Alzheimer’s Aware­ness Month

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FIFTY PLUS - By Diane Kauff­man

It started with lit­tle things. She couldn’t find her keys. Oh, there they are. What a funny place to leave them. What was the name of the young man who cut her grass? Good­ness — he had “only” been cut­ting her grass for five years. Oh, yes — it is Jim. And then it pro­gressed. Now when she lost her keys she could not re­trace her steps, or when she for­got a name she could not re­call it no mat­ter how hard she tried.

Time passed. Her out-of-state fam­ily vis­ited and no­ticed that her al­ways clean and tidy home was be­com­ing not only clut­tered, but dirty too. She had al­ways taken great pride in her per­sonal ap­pear­ance, but now she was wear­ing stained cloth­ing and her hair was — well, it was just a mess. And when was the last time she took a bath or brushed her teeth.

They took her to the doc­tor who di­ag­nosed her with Alzheimer’s dis­ease. There were few treat­ments and no cures. This heart­break­ing dis­ease would rob her of her iden­tity, all she had ever learned, mem­o­ries of her fam­ily and friends, and of the abil­ity to rec­og­nize that she was hun­gry or that she needed to re­lieve her­self. Even­tu­ally, it would rob of her of life.

Cur­rently, 3.2 mil­lion (1 in 9) Amer­i­cans over the age of 65 years has Alzheimer’s dis­ease. Ev­ery 66 sec­onds an­other per­son in the United States is di­ag­nosed with Alzheimer’s dis­ease. Baby Boomers¸ those born be­tween 1946 and 1964 and cur­rently ages 52 to 70 years, can ex­pect the rate of Alzheimer’s dis­ease to in­crease to 13.8 mil­lion by the year 2050 if a way to pre­vent it is not found.

Alzheimer’s dis­ease is a thief that even­tu­ally takes your life. It does this slowly at first, caus­ing changes to your brain that may not show up for years. Symp­toms in­crease as the dis­ease be­gins to take your abil­ity to find just the right word or name, de­creases your or­ga­ni­za­tional skills, and makes ev­ery­day tasks more dif­fi­cult. Even­tu­ally, its im­pact in­creases to in­clude for­get­ting your own per­sonal his­tory, caus­ing con­fu­sion about where you are and what day it is, changes in sleep habits, and changes in your per­son­al­ity and be­hav­ior. When Alzheimer’s dis-

ease reaches its most se­vere stage, it will have stolen your abil­ity to walk, talk, sit, and swal­low.

This dis­ease also im­pacts your fam­ily. As Alzheimer’s dis­ease steals your mem­ory and your health it leaves your care­givers emo­tional, phys­i­cal and fi­nan­cial stresses

that may im­pact their lives for years. In the United States, 18.1 bil­lion hours of un­paid care are pro­vided to those suf­fer­ing from Alzheimer’s by 15 mil­lion care­givers. Care­givers spend more than $5,000 per year car­ing for some­one with Alzheimer’s. For some fam­i­lies, this may mean giv­ing up va­ca­tion, but for oth­ers it means cut­ting back on food or other fam­ily es­sen­tials. Two-thirds of care­givers

are woman and 34 per­cent are 65 years of age or older. They may be pre­par­ing for or have en­tered their own re­tire­ment — and oth­ers may post­pone their re­tire­ment due to fi­nan­cial is­sues re­lated to care giv­ing. In many cases, th­ese care­givers are still rais­ing fam­i­lies or they may be deal­ing with their own is­sues re­lated to ag­ing.

This all brings us to the ques­tions re­lated to

pre­vent­ing, treat­ing and erad­i­cat­ing Alzheimer’s dis­ease. Cur­rently, there are phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal treat­ments for this dis­ease. Th­ese med­i­ca­tions do not stop the pro­gres­sion of this dis­ease. They do help lessen and sta­bi­lize treat­ments for a pe­riod of time. They work for 6 to 12 months in half of the peo­ple who take them.

As with many dis­eases, there is no tried and true path to avoid­ing Alzheimer’s dis­ease. How­ever, there is hope. There are many or­ga­ni­za­tions work­ing daily to find ways to pre­vent and treat Alzheimer’s and other de­men­tias. In­creas­ingly, per­sonal care homes are adding se­cure de­men­tia neigh­bor­hoods to their com­mu­ni­ties to en­sure that our el­ders with Alzheimer’s get the best care pos­si­ble.

In the mean­time, take care of yourself. Fol­low a

heart healthy diet. Ex­er­cise. Con­trol your di­a­betes, blood pres­sure and choles­terol lev­els. Pro­tect your brain by wear­ing a seat­belt or hel­met and fall proof your home.

(Sta­tis­tics from www.alz. org)

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