Could It Be?

Could It Be?

I was speaking with an acquaintance the other day and he asked me if I had any family knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease. I said I did, and asked him what his connection with Alzheimer’s was. He said that he had been diagnosed with dementia, but he didn’t have Alzheimer’s. He asked what the difference was between dementia and Alzheimer’s. I replied that I didn’t know but, at some point, the difference doesn’t matter.

One of the things I find interesting about this conversation, and similar conversations, is that people want to be clear, they DON’T have Alzheimer’s disease. Is it the word that scares them? Is it the idea that they might have something for which there is no cure? Is dementia an easier word to say, or hear?

There is a movie out, starring Julianne Moore, called Still Alice. It is based on a book by Lisa Genova. It deals with a woman diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. On the Alzheimer’s Association website, www.alz.org, I found an article about early-onset Alzheimer’s by Fredrick Kunkle. In the article, he states that “Early-onset Alzheimer’s is the rarest form of the disease.” The article goes on, “Early-onset Alzheimer’s affects about 200,000 Americans who become symptomatic before 65 according to Maria C. Carrillo, the Alzheimer’s association’s chief science officer.”

The article also states that “More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, most 65 or older.” The idea of being afflicted by this disease, or any form of dementia, is a frightening thought. However, sometimes simply aging causes forgetfulness. It is not always sign of doom. It is important to be aware of your own personal health, and any health-related issues. As we age, we should all be on a first-name basis with our doctors. Not to be annoying, just to be aware.

It is also equally important to keep a watchful eye on aging parents, friends, and relatives. Everyone needs someone who is paying attention, someone who will notice out-of-place behavior, and do something positive about it. Caring for someone in and of itself, doesn’t make you a caregiver, but if that someone has a serious health issue, you could easily become a caregiver.

It seems like awareness of any type of Alzheimer’s or dementia is important. With knowledge there is hope. Back to the conversation with my acquaintance. We mentioned how, at this time, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. There is however, medication that will slow the progression of the disease. Research is continuing all the time, as is fund raising. But there is hope. With more people knowing about Alzheimer’s and the toll it takes on not only the person affected, but their caregivers, be they family or medical personnel, progress will continue.

There was no cure for Alzheimer’s disease in my mother’s lifetime. How I wish there had been. But as science and research move forward, there will be a cure. Until that time, we all need to be aware, and to care. There is always hope.

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