By Linda Lovely
Author Vivienne Lorret, my fellow blogger, has already alerted the followers of our Romancing the Genres blog that June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month. But I decided two blogs on this topic isn’t overdoing it.
Consider these statistics, provided courtesy of the Alzheimer’s Association (http://www.alz.org/):
· Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S.
· 1 in 3 seniors dies from Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
· It’s the only cause of death in the top 10 that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed.
· Alzheimer’s affects about 6% of people 65 years and older.
· 2/3 of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.
· 5.3 million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer's—an estimated 5.1 million of them are age 65 and older.
I’m over 65 and female. My mother suffered from Alzheimer’s. So every time I forget a word or a person’s name, can’t find my car keys, or stare at a pantry shelf wondering what the heck I needed, I worry. Has it started? The one thing I don’t forget is to contribute to Alzheimer’s research and support groups—the brains trying to protect my brain, and yours.
If you’ve known and loved someone with Alzheimer’s, you know how hideous this disease is. My mom was a lot smarter than me. She skipped two grades, and she could add and multiply large numbers without aid of electronics (or even paper and pencil). She was a card sharp, too. When she was about 76, we noticed she began to have problems remembering what cards were played. She asked us to repeat things a lot. At first, we thought she needed a hearing aid. No, she was stalling for time to try to make sense of what we were saying. She was able to live on her own for about four years after the symptoms began, because she recognized her illness and tried to adapt. She pinned house keys to practically every blouse and jacket she owned. She scribbled notes to herself when she had more lucid moments.
Still we were forced to put Mom in a nursing home when she was 80. By then, she was suffering from hallucinations and was extremely paranoid. She still knew the people she loved, but was often very confused and excitable. The manager of her apartment complex was afraid she’d leave on a stove and start a fire. Taking Mom to the nursing home was the hardest thing I think I’ve ever done. Mom lived ten more years. Watching the mother I knew disappear was heart-breaking.
So, please consider what you can do to support Alzheimer’s research. We baby boomers will—unfortunately—swell the ranks of those who suffer and die from this form of dementia if something isn’t done to find answers to the why of this dreadful disease.