To the Editor:
June is Brain and Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. If you believe it has nothing to do with you, you would be wrong. Over 5 million people have been diagnosed in the U.S. with Alzheimer’s. If we don’t find a cure, it is estimated by 2050 there will be 16 million diagnosed. There is no cure, no effective treatment, no prevention. Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death. Every 66 seconds someone else is diagnosed. One in three senior citizens dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. It is the most expensive illness to treat. Approximately 15 million Americans provide an estimated 18.2 billion hours of unpaid care for people with dementia. The majority of these caregivers are women.
How does this information affect you? You probably know someone who has been touched by this devastating disease. If you don’t, eventually you will. It may even touch you personally. What can you do to help? Join the Walk to End Alzheimer’s being held at Ft. Taber on September 23. Create a team of your own or join a team. Support the fundraising efforts of people you know. Offer to help a caregiver. As a former caregiver, I can not emphasize how much any support would mean to a caregiver. Taking care of someone with dementia is physically and emotionally exhausting. The financial burden is huge.
Contrary to popular belief, dementia is NOT an inevitable part of aging. Younger-onset Alzheimer’s and related dementias can be diagnosed as early as your 30s. Consider the impact on a family if someone is diagnosed at this age. Life is turned upside down. I have several friends who have felt the impact of younger-onset dementia. It is heartbreaking to see the toll it takes on a family.
During June, think about joining the fight. Wear purple to let others know you support the fight. You can join a team by going to the Alzheimer’s Association website or sign up June 6 (New Boston Bakery in Fall River), July 18 (Hangman Coffee Hut in Marion), or August 5 (Green Bean in New Bedford). As an advocate, I know how much your participation in whatever way possible means to this fight.
Barbara A. Meehan, Alzheimer’s Advocate