It used to be that no one wanted to talk about it or even acknowledge its existence. The very words scared people. It was as if to talk about it meant you had to face the reality of it. That if it touched your life, it was contagious — like an epidemic of sorts.
But times are changing. Advocates, and the industry itself, are far more vocal about it in today’s world. And as society becomes more aware of the facts and the impact it has, it is no longer talked about in hush-hush voices. Every week I get requests for information about it or people coming into my office to talk about it. This is what we do. It’s very important for us and others to raise awareness and de-stigmatize it.
You probably are wondering what “It” is. “It” is Alzheimer’s disease.
The facts and figures surrounding Alzheimer’s are surprising to many and a bit mind-boggling.
Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. It is the most common form of dementia, a general term for loss of memory and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50-80 percent of dementia cases.
Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, although the greatest known risk factor is increasing age and the majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older. But Alzheimer’s is not just a disease of old age. Up to 5 percent of people with the disease have early-onset Alzheimer’s (also known as younger-onset), which often appears when someone is in his or her 40s or 50s.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, where symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. Those with Alzheimer’s live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others, but survival can range from four to 20 years, depending on age and other health conditions.
Alzheimer’s has no current cure, but treatments for symptoms are available and research continues. Although current Alzheimer’s treatments cannot stop Alzheimer’s from progressing, they can temporarily slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and improve quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.
(Statistics from “Alzheimer’s Association 2012 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures.” Alzheimer’s and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. March 2012; 8:131–168.)
Today there is a worldwide effort under way to find better ways to treat the disease, delay its onset and prevent it from developing. In January 2011, President Obama signed the National Alzheimer’s Project Act into law, marking the largest legislative victory in many years for the Alzheimer’s cause.
Fundraising efforts are held throughout the United States as well as numerous other countries by many Alzheimer’s organizations.
The only way to find a treatment, a cure and a way to prevent Alzheimer’s is through research. Fundraising efforts and private donations help to pay for research, support in the communities and education.
The Alzheimer’s Association “Walk to End Alzheimer’s”™ is the nation’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide, this inspiring event calls on participants of all ages and abilities to reclaim the future for millions.
The North Olympic Peninsula “Walk To End Alzheimer’s” is in Sequim on Sept. 29. The “Walk” will start and end at the Sequim Boys & Girls Club, also the site for the opening and closing ceremonies. Please support this cause by signing up to participate in the walk by going to http://act.alz.org/nop .
We also are looking for sponsors and vendors for the event. For more information, or if you are unable to go online to register, e-mail email@example.com or call 461-3402.
Kicking off the season will be the “Discovery Trailblazers” walk team hosting its annual Spaghetti Feed and Silent Auction from 4-7 p.m. Saturday, May 19, at the Guy Cole Convention Center.
For more information or to make a donation to the silent auction, e-mail Pam Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 683-7047. Come on out and “Eat For A Cause” and bid on some great items. Silent auction donations can be accepted up to the day of the event.
Pam Scott is the community relations director for Discovery Memory Care in Sequim.
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