Alzheimer’s disease is indeed a public health crisis. Jeff Huber, the President of Home Instead Senior Care Inc. said it best… “Some 5.7 million Americans are living with it today and that number is projected to grow to nearly 14 million by 2050. It’s the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S., killing more Americans than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. I’m leading off with these startling facts and figures to drive home the point that Alzheimer’s is not only a serious condition, it’s more prevalent than you might think.
When it comes to fighting Alzheimer’s, awareness is key. Oftentimes, we choose to ignore – or put off – those things that we associate with end of life. It’s human nature. But the truth is, we don’t have to accept Alzheimer’s as a given if we live to a certain age. It’s not. The more we know about Alzheimer’s today, the better our chances are for early detection and helping to advance research to fight the disease.
We know all too well how the disease progresses and slowly steals vitality away from the once vital. We know how deeply it affects families. And, most important, we know that there is hope. That hope is built on a wave of awareness that grows with increased volunteerism and funding that fuel research to identify treatments and, just maybe, a cure.
Recently, Lakelyn Hogan, our gerontologist and Alzheimer’s caregiver advocate attended the Alzheimer’s Association’s Leadership Summit in San Antonio, TX. to learn even more about the state of our fight against this horrible disease. The short story from that meeting is that we’re making progress. Here are five key take-away from the summit that give us hope in the fight against Alzheimer’s:
1. On Dec. 31, 2018, President Trump signed into law the bipartisan Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act. The BOLD Act is all about raising awareness by creating Alzheimer’s Centers of Excellence in communities across the country. These centers will promote effective Alzheimer’s interventions. The act will also provide funding to state and local public health departments to promote cognitive health, risk reduction, early detection and diagnosis, and the needs of caregivers. Additionally, the new law increases collection, analysis and timely reporting of data on cognitive decline and caregiving to inform future public health actions.
2. The Alzheimer’s Association increased fund-raising through its Walk to End Alzheimer’s and Longest Day events in 2018. Last year, more than 65,000 teams participated in more than 600 walks across the country, raising more than million.
3. Many individuals living with Alzheimer’s talked about how “they had Alzheimer’s,” but “Alzheimer’s didn’t have them.” They shared messages of hope and explained how they are helping the cause by advocating at the federal and state level, participating in clinical research trials, joining support groups and raising funds.
4. Researchers are looking into three hallmarks of Alzheimer’s: plaques that develop outside brain nerve cells, tau tangles (clumps of protein that form in the brain) and neurodegeneration (shrinking of the brain). Some researchers believe these conditions begin to occur up to 10 years before cognitive symptoms start to show. They’re hoping they can intervene and treat these conditions – much like treating high cholesterol to help prevent heart disease – to slow or even prevent Alzheimer’s. Clinical trials could take years, but there are a promising number of drugs in the pipeline, with 61 in the third and final phase of testing.
5. Researchers are also looking at risk factors and risk reduction. They’ve even given us a tool to take care of ourselves with 10 Ways to Love Your Brain. Check it out at www.alz.org
These five take-away demonstrate there’s hope. We all have a brain, so we all have a reason to support the fight against Alzheimer’s. And, as more of us join the battle, hope will swell.”
Needing help navigating or support caring for someone living with this disease, please call the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24/7 helpline at 800-272-3900 or call our local Alzheimer’s Assoc. office in Santa Rosa office at (707) 573-1210.
If you need a community of online supporters to rally around you, begin following the Remember for Alzheimer’s Facebook page. Take support one step further and receive a weekly email from Lakelyn with caregiving tips and hope to help you along the caregiving continuum.
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.