Friday, October 22, 2010

Alzheimer's in the News

Everywhere I look or listen lately, I notice that people are talking about Alzheimer's-- the cover of TIME magazine last week, Maria Shriver's march at the Women's Convention in Long Beach this weekend, even Grey's Anatomy on ABC has a sub-plot dealing with the disease. This awareness is exactly what is needed because the generation of Baby Boomers that are reaching the peak age for the disease will add $627 Billion in Alzheimer's-related health care costs to Medicare. And a 65 year old today has a 10% risk of developing the disease (that percentage probably goes up if the disease runs in the family).

TIME Magazine:
"As a country we spend $5.6 billion a year funding cancer studies, $1 billion a year for heart disease.... and $500 million to study Alzheimer's. Yet what is going to get most of us in the next few years is Alzheimer's."

TIME's article wasn't the most informative or exciting, but what it did do was raise awareness, explain new avenues that scientists are taking to combat the disease, and give Hope that maybe someday Megan and I won't end up like our Dad.

Some days I feel down about the slow progress being made against the disease. Scientists have 30-35 years to find a cure or a concrete way of preventing Alzheimer's before I start to develop the disease. Is that enough time? (The disease starts forming long before symptoms even occur, so it's safe to say I could be 60-65 years old when it starts to develop. Researchers say that the best time to tackle the disease is at the very beginning stages or before.)

On the other hand, big strides are being made with early detection and I am confident that with the raised awareness about Alzheimer's, more research will lead to some promising discoveries. Furthermore there are ways of slowing down the disease that my Dad didn't really partake in (one reason for developing the disease so early).... keeping the mind sharp with enriching social relationships, stimulating the brain with games and puzzles, and keeping your body physically fit.

One Poll that TIME featured asked (paraphrasing a little):
What would you prefer if they were diagnosed with Alzheimer's?
37% said they would like to be placed in a home for Dementia Care
36% said they would want their spouse or children to take care of them at home.

That 36% percent upset me so much. I mean, I got really mad. I don't know who the participants of that poll were, but knowing what I know now, I would NEVER EVER subject my kids or husband to taking care of me full-time in our home. I think most care-givers would agree with me. It's one thing if that's the decision made by the family members, but there are facilities that are specially equipped for dealing with Alzheimer's patients. Those facilities know the 'tricks of the trade' per-say and I am constantly impressed at how well my Dad's care-givers handle him. They are doing a much better job than Megan or I could do and he's pretty happy. (Obviously, money can be an issue and a reason why many people don't move into a facility.)

Ending on a light note... Megan informed me after the Doctor's appointment today that Dad gained 4 pounds!! Yay!! Dad was so sweet to her today and reached over and brushed her face with his hand. She said that he is newly obsessed with Paula again. And then still on the Paula topic, he said to Megan, "I didn't know you had a Mother." Haha, what did he think? That she was an alien life-form with no parents?! Just kidding. It's just so funny when he says things like that.

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