Alzheimer's Disease and Our Nation's Caregivers

I was driving home from work tonight, and saw the old Cleveland landmark, Terminal Tower lit up purple.  It's pink in October for breast cancer, orange for home Browns games, and changes throughout the year based on whatever awareness, events or causes are being highlighted.  So this evening, I was certain the color was for Alzheimer's awareness.  It rang a chord with me, since just a few short months ago, my mother was formally diagnosed with the disease.

Imagine my surprise when I got home and looked up the Tower's lighting schedule.  The purple was for epilepsy.  An incredibly noble cause, and I scoured the rest of November's lighting dates to see when the purple would appear for Alzheimer's Disease.  Because while epilepsy is horrible, and deserves a heap of awareness and funding, 2 million more Americans have Alzheimer's than have epilepsy.  The next purple date was for pancreatic cancer - a horrible, insidious disease and I was pleased to find this recognition; however, 45,000 Americans suffer from this - as opposed to the 5 million with Alzheimer's. The final purple recognition lighting for November? Premature birth.  So important to recognize this, and the 1 million babies who tragically don't survive their premature arrival.

So many incredible causes that deserve our support, recognition and funding.  But where is our Alzheimer's recognition?  Sadly, many people find it to be an elderly person's disease, and more trivial than people affected by a disease in the prime (or start) of life.  But Alzheimer's appears as early as 35, 40 and 50 years of age for over 200,000 Americans currently.  And for those older, it is the longest, most heart-wrenching goodbye - for the disease incapacitates them, and then kills them.  The vast majority of our population doesn't realize that a diagnosis of Alzheimer's is, in fact, terminal. The toll it takes on families, the person affected and the high cost of healthcare and insurance as a result, is staggering.  As the baby boomers age over the next 5, 10, 20 years, the rate of this horrible disease will skyrocket.

terminal.tower.purple.blog.post.bodyThe irony then, is not lost on me that November is also National Caregiver's Month, and I was struck by our President's proclamation and statement from October 31st, which reads in part: "In the United States, more than 60 million caregivers provide invaluable strength and assistance to their family members, and as the number of older Americans rises, so will the number of caregivers. Many of these dedicated people work full time and raise children of their own while also caring for the needs of their loved ones. Caregivers support the independence of their family members and enable them to more fully participate in their communities, and as a Nation, we have an obligation to empower these selfless individuals...I encourage all Americans to pay tribute to those who provide for the health and well-being of their family members, friends, and neighbors...By offering them the same comfort, social engagement, and stability they bring to others, may we remind them that they are not alone."

So tonight, I will remember those affected by epilepsy, pancreatic cancer and premature birth. In my heart; however, November will illuminate the millions suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, the tens of thousands of family members/caregivers affected - and especially my mom and dad. I pray for more awareness, more funding, and above all - a cure.

For more information on Alzheimer’s Disease or how you can help, please visit www.alz.org

For more information on National Family Caregivers’ Month, complete with resources and ways to help, please visit www.caregiveraction.org

You can read Belleruth’s advice for guided imagery while managing an Alzheimer’s diagnosis here: http://blog.healthjourneys.com/ask-belleruth/can-guided-imagery-help-with-alzheimer-s.html