What I’ve Learned About Alzheimer’s Disease

by Nancy Wurtzel on January 28, 2015

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The more I learn about Alzheimer’s disease, and other diseases of the brain, the more angry I become.  Some days, I feel ready to explode or implode — I can’t say which — but a “plode” would be involved.

This post is really nothing more than a rant.  Thanks for indulging me.

What I’ve learned from Alzheimer’s:

  • Anyone can get Alzheimer’s.  It doesn’t matter how educated you are, how much money you have, where you live or even how good of shape you are in physically.  The disease doesn’t discriminate.
  • There is a no cure for Alzheimer’s.  After years of research and billions of dollars, there is no cure or even effective treatments.
  • At least once a week I come across a breathless headlines in the media.  It runs along the lines of this: A New Study Has Unlocked the Key to Alzheimer’s!  We need the media, but they need to attract viewers and readers, so keep that in mind.
  • I often talk to people who are convinced they have some form of dementia because they forget where they parked their car or they frequently lose their glasses.  People, please get over yourselves!!  You are not paying attention, which is causing this forgetful behavior.  It does not mean you have Alzheimer’s.
  • On the other hand, those with actual memory loss often do not even realize they are experiencing it.
  • The brain has an amazing capacity to compensate during the earlier stages of the disease.  Perhaps a person can’t remember in the short-term, asking the same questions over-and-over.  Yet, that same person may clearly recall accurate and specific details of conversations or events from years ago.
  • With my family history, I may already have the disease.  You might, too.  Scientists now know Alzheimer’s, and many other types of dementia, can be at work in the brain for several decades before symptoms are obvious.
  • Alzheimer’s has destroyed millions of lives. It continues to wreak havoc on families in our country and around the world.
  • Follow the money.  Remember that famous line from Watergate?  Alzheimer’s is woefully underfunded compared to many other big diseases.  Why?  We have no poster children of success since no one survives.  The disease is a slow, long decline and certain death.  Those with the disease and their families are rightly very afraid of the disease.  It is considered an old person’s disease.  There is a huge stigma (and shame) surrounding Alzheimer’s.
  • If Alzheimer’s affected primarily young people, instead of primarily older people, we would already have effective treatments.
  • The financial toll of Alzheimer’s is staggering.  In fact, the financial burden is near a tipping point.  As more and more people live with these brain diseases, our economy will begin to show the negative effects.  If we don’t find a cure or effective treatments, the world’s workforce and economy will not have the resources to care for those with the disease.
  • Many (too many) are sitting on the sidelines, hoping they can avoid Alzheimer’s or the other types of dementia.  Your help is needed!!  Educate yourself and become involved.  Yes, the clock is ticking loudly, but it’s not too late.

*Photo from iStockPhoto

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