By Larry Peterson
My wife passed away almost two years ago, a victim of Alzheimer’s Disease. I stay in touch with the Alzheimer’s Association because I want to keep abreast of advances and other news that pertains to this illness. Yesterday I received the 2019 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report for 2019. Since this disease ignores all human boundaries, I thought I might share some basic info about this topic.
It is important to remember that Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia are two different things. Alzheimer’s is a form of Dementia while Dementia is a syndrome or a symptom of a cognitive disorder. There are many other causes of dementia besides Alzheimer’s disease such as Vascular Dementia, Huntington’s Disease, Dementia with Lewy Bodies, and Parkinson’s Disease Dementia, to name a few.
A football player may develop dementia from years of head trauma received while playing his sport. A retired fighter may be deemed as being “punch drunk” because dementia has taken hold of his brain after thousands of punches to the head. A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease requires a special evaluation by doctors and trained psychologists in the field before the Alzheimer’s label is officially given the patient.
My wife first exhibited “forgetfulness’ during her chemo treatments in 2011. I had heard of “chemo-brain” and asked her oncologist about her chemo treatments being the cause. He could not answer and said we would have to wait and see.
It was not until the summer of 2014 when the official diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease given. And that came only after an MRI, evaluation by a neurologist, and having her and the family interviewed by two psychologists.
She lived three years after diagnosis. Some Alzheimer’s patients live up to fifteen years, especially those who are diagnosed in their early fifties. The course of the illness is unpredictable, but the results are very predictable. Alzheimer’s disease cannot be slowed or stopped. It just keeps at it until its mission is accomplished.
According to the Alzheimer’s Associations 2019 report, 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. The projected number by the year 2050 is 14 million. Every 65 seconds someone in the United States develops the disease and more than 16 million Americans, (mostly family and friends) provide unpaid care for people who have Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.
Heart disease has always held the title as being the number one killer in the United States. The good news is that between the years 2000 and 2017 deaths from heart disease decreased by 9%. At the same time deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased by a whopping 145% making it the sixth leading killer in America.
Today in America one in ten people over the age of 65 has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. They have determined that among seniors who are 85 or older, 32% have the disease. As modern medications and healthy eating and cleaner lifestyles promote lengthier life spans tne number of folks living into their nineties continues to climb. Along with that comes an increase in Alzheimer’s cases.
Finally, early symptoms of dementia may include confusion about location or what day it is; poor judgment; unable to find familiar items; or simply mood and or personality changes. But PLEASE—do not diagnose someone you know and love as having dementia. Many things can cause a memory lapse or forgetfulness. We all are victims of those things. Only trained and qualified personnel can diagnose such a serious disease.
The best thing we all can do when confronted with these situations is pray hard and call our doctors.
Lastly, never forget to ask the Patroness of those with dementia and mental illness for her intercession. Her name is St. Dymphna Click on her name and say “HI.”