A few months ago my mother died from Alzheimer’s. She suffered from the disease for more than a quarter century. While her passing was not a surprise, you can never really prepare yourself for the inevitable.
Over the years I spent hours asking the question, “Why mom?”
Last month the Alzheimer’s Association released a report that helped put things in perspective. The report estimated that 1-in-6 women, age 65 or older, are likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared with 1-in-11 for men of the same age.
The real news from the report was this: “Women in their 60s are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s over the rest of their lives as they are to developing breast cancer.” Think of all the awareness and money that’s allocated by the government or donated to finding a cure for breast cancer. Is the same amount earmarked for Alzheimer’s? Not by a long shot.
“I won’t get Alzheimer’s,” many women and men say. “No one in my family has it.”
They mistakenly believe is that Alzheimer’s runs in families. It doesn’t. Alzheimer’s doesn’t discriminate between race, or social status. The only commonality is age—the longer you live the more likely your odds of getting the disease.
My mother was one of five million Americans who currently have the disease. By 2050 that number is expected to triple to 16 million. It will cost the American taxpayers $1.2 trillion.
My mother lived for more than thirty years with dementia. She spent the last 13 years in a nursing home that provided 24/7 care for her. The cost for caring for mom both at home and in a care facility took a toll in multiple ways on family members and pocket books.
So what do we do? First, we need to lobby Congress to provide more money for Alzheimer’s research and caring support systems. Second, we need to fast track research projects so that a cure can be found sooner rather than later. Third, we need to educate the public so it understands disease and consequences. Just like organizations like Susan G. Komen have raised awareness about breast cancer, so too must the Alzheimer’s community.