November is the month set aside to honor our loved ones who have Alzheimer’s, or who are affected by Alzheimer’s. The cold hard facts are that every 70 seconds an American family is affected by Alzheimer’s; there are more than 5 million people in the United States who have the disease, and more than 10 million Americans who are caring for a family member with the disease.
There is a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease that can develop in people in their 30s and 40s. But, Alzheimer’s usually affects people 60-years-old and older. The biggest single risk for Alzheimer’s is age, and the number of Americans over the age of 65 is expected to double to 70 million by 2050. Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. Smoking has been linked to a greater risk for dementia as are chronic diseases such as diabetes and depression.
Taking care of a person with Alzheimer’s disease can be an emotional roller coaster ride. NIH has released a free 136-page handbook called Caring for a Person with Alzheimer’s disease: Your Easy-To-Use Guide. It can be downloaded from their website – http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/caring-person-alzheimers-disease/about-guide.
There is also a new website from the National Alzheimer’s Awareness Campaign, w.alzheimers.gov. This website provides comprehensive and accurate information about the disease.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has listed 7 Facts You Need To Know:
1) We generally detect Alzheimer’s at the end-stage of the disease.
Alzheimer’s is usually diagnosed in years 8-10 of the disease which typically follows a 14-year course. Therefore, most patients have gone for 7 years without treatment during which time the lesions have spread through the brain causing irreparable damage. “Please be aware that we diagnose Alzheimer’s disease far too late to optimize the effects of currently available treatments.”
2) Memory loss is not a part of normal aging.
Improving the timeliness of a diagnosis for Alzheimer’s can be addressed through public awareness and education. “Please be aware that memory loss is not a part of normal aging and, regardless of the cause of the memory loss, timely medical intervention is best.”
3) Current Alzheimer’s drugs are probably more effective than you think.
The practice of detecting Alzheimer’s in its late stages has caused the current treatments to be ineffective. They cannot work on patients who already have massive brain damage. So, dealing with the limited interventions that we have, the earlier the treatment and the healthier the brain, the more responsive the patient will be to treatment. “Please be aware that currently approved treatments may be more effective than some headlines indicate.”
4) Alzheimer’s disease can be treated.
Many physicians, patients, and caregivers believe that any treatment short of a cure is not worthwhile. But, diet, physical exercise, social engagement, and certain drugs can meaningfully alter the course of Alzheimer’s and preserve quality of life. “Please be aware that ‘we have no cure’ does not mean ‘there is no treatment’”.
5) The Alzheimer’s drug pipeline is full.
There are many promising drugs that are in FDA clinical trials right now. Although a cure may be a long way off because the cause of the disease is still a mystery, it is possible that there is ‘an effective agent” in the pipeline. “Please be aware that, although we don’t know when, better treatments for Alzheimer’s are certainly on the way.”
6) Taking good care of your heart will help your brain stay healthy.
Because brain health is tied to body health (especially the heart) researchers have proven that high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity all add to a greater risk for cognitive decline. Everyone should be aware about the close association between vascular health and cognitive health. “Please be aware that maintaining good vascular health will help you age with cognitive vitality.”
7) Managing risk factors may delay or prevent cognitive problems later in life.
Some of the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease include diabetes, head injuries, smoking, poor diet, lethargy, and isolation. Hopefully, awareness can produce a world with diabetics taking concentrated care in controlling their blood sugar, helmets worn in all recreational activities that could cause head trauma, people smoking less, eating more fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly and staying socially engaged.” Please be aware that many risk factors for Alzheimer’s can be actively managed to reduce the likelihood of cognitive decline.”
So, why do we devote a month to Alzheimer’s awareness? Because it is ravaging our aging society and has become stigmatized to the point where early intervention is hampered.
If you know of someone who might be showing early signs of Alzheimer’s, contact the Kabb Law at 216-991-KABB (5222). We can help guide you in the steps to follow.