The Walk to End Alzheimer's - Let's Find a Cure for This Disease
by Don Drake, Connelly Law Offices, Ltd.
"With more than six million people living with this disease in America and this number rapidly growing with the greying of our country, there is no more important event than the Wak to End Alzheimer's," said certified elder law attorney, RJ Connelly III. "Over the past few years, we have spent an inordinate amount of time discussing the COVID pandemic but the pandemic we have been ignoring is the Alzheimer's pandemic. Globally, there are over forty-four million people living with the disease and here in the United States, by 2050, over thirteen million people will be living with it. In fact, 1 in 3 seniors will die of Alzheimer's or another dementia, more than die of breast cancer and prostate cancer combined." This is a sobering fact that goes unnoticed by a press obsessed with COVID and its variants.
Next Sunday, October 2, 2022, the Walk to End Alzheimer's will take place in Providence. The Alzheimer's Association Walk to End Alzheimer's is the world's largest fundraiser for Alzheimer's care, support, and research. This inspiring event calls on participants of all ages and abilities to join the fight against the disease.
And here are a few facts shared about this disease by the Alzheimer's Association:
In the United States, Alzheimer's and Dementia deaths have increased by 16% during the COVID pandemic.
This year, Alzheimer's and other dementias have cost our country $355 billion and by 2050, these costs could rise to $1.1 trillion.
More than eleven million Americans provide unpaid care to those with Alzheimer's and other dementias.
In 2020, unpaid caregivers provided an estimated 15.3 billion hours of care valued at $257 billion, money not in circulation in our economy.
Between 2000 and 2019, deaths from heart disease decreased by 7.3% while Alzheimer's deaths increased by 145%.
"The Alzheimer's Association differentiates between Alzheimer's and other dementias," said Attorney Connelly. "Dementia is a general term for a set of symptoms such as a decline in memory, reasoning, or other thinking skills, enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia. Alzheimer’s is a specific disease. Brain cell connections and the cells themselves degenerate and die, eventually destroying memory and other important brain functions. Memory loss and confusion are the main symptoms."
"I guess I was like so many others when someone you love begins to exhibit signs of dementia," said Cassandra. "I just kept chalking it up as forgetfulness and just another sign of growing old. But she did everything else all right, like going to the gym every day and riding her bike a few times a week. I mean, at seventy-two, I thought that was pretty good."
But things began to change for her family when a neighbor told Cassandra that her mom was getting quite forgetful. "When she told me that, I became very angry at her neighbor, telling her to mind her own business," Cassandra stated. "But she was a nurse and I know now she was just trying to tell me that mom was in trouble. A few weeks after that, the police called me and said that mom had gotten lost riding her bike and didn't know how to get back home. They found her sitting on the curb crying. I knew then that something was very wrong."
"...the police called me and said mom had gotten lost riding her bike and didn't know how to get back home. They found her sitting on the curb crying. I knew then that something was very wrong."
After being diagnosed, Cassandra moved her mother into the house with her and her family. "It was good at first, but things went downhill fast. I would take her for walks in the neighborhood, she would love to do that at first," said Cassandra. "But as months passed, those walks where we would talk about things began to go silent. She would just hold my hand and walk, not even acknowledging me. Then she began to hallucinate and become irrational."
As for the other family members, they noticed the change in Cassandra and the time that was being spent with her mother. "Mom's physical needs became more and more demanding and time-consuming, I had to help with bathing her, getting her dressed, and going to the bathroom. I was missing school assemblies, family trips, and even meals with the kids. Thank goodness my job allowed me to work at home due to COVID, or otherwise, I would have had to quit."
As time passed, Cassandra's mom's behavior became even more childlike. "She would throw tantrums, swear and even become physical with me. My siblings would come over and try to help, but none of them wanted to take mom even for a weekend. This led to so much stress in my marriage that I was sure we were heading for a divorce," Cassandra told us. "Eventually I relented and had mom placed in long-term care, it was then that I took an honest look at the toll that Alzheimer's takes on the patient, the caregiver, and other family members. We really need to take this disease as seriously as we took COVID and find a cure. It's devastating."
Symptoms We Need to Know
According to the Alzheimer's Association, there are ten symptoms that we should know about the disease. Let's look at them:
MEMORY LOSS THAT DISRUPTS DAILY LIFE - One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the early stage, is forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events, asking the same questions repeatedly, and increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things the person used to handle on their own. A typical age-related change is sometimes forgetting names or appointments but remembering them later.
CHALLENGES IN PLANNING OR SOLVING PROBLEMS - Some people living with dementia may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before. A typical age-related change is making occasional errors when managing finances or household bills.
DIFFICULTY COMPLETING FAMILIAR TASKS - People living with Alzheimer’s disease often find it hard to complete routine tasks. Sometimes they may have trouble driving to a familiar location, organizing a grocery list, or remembering the rules of a favorite game. A typical age-related change is occasionally needing help to use microwave settings or to record a TV show.
CONFUSION WITH TIME OR PLACE - People living with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons, and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there. A typical age-related change is getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.
TROUBLE UNDERSTANDING VISUAL IMAGES AND SPATIAL RELATIONSHIPS - For some people, vision problems are a sign of Alzheimer’s. This may lead to difficulty with balance or trouble reading. They may also have problems judging distance and determining color or contrast, causing issues with driving. A typical age-related change is vision change related to cataracts.
NEW PROBLEMS WITH WORDS IN SPEAKING OR WRITING - People living with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have trouble naming a familiar object or use the wrong name. A typical age-related change is sometimes having trouble finding the right word.
MISPLACING THINGS AND LOSING THE ABILITY TO RETRACE STEPS - A person living with Alzheimer’s may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. He or she may accuse others of stealing, especially as the disease progresses. A typical age-related change is misplacing things from time to time and retracing steps to find them.
DECREASED OR POOR JUDGMENT - Individuals may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money or pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean. A typical age-related change is making a wrong decision or mistake occasionally, like neglecting to change the oil in the car.
WITHDRAWAL FROM WORK OR SOCIAL ACTIVITIES - A person living with Alzheimer’s disease may experience changes in their ability to hold or follow a conversation. As a result, he or she may withdraw from hobbies, social activities, or other engagements. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite team or activity. A typical age-related change is sometimes feeling uninterested in the family or social obligations.
CHANGES IN MOOD OR PERSONALITY - individuals living with Alzheimer’s may experience mood and personality changes. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, with friends, or when out of their comfort zone. A typical age-related change is developing specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.
Another important fact is that these symptoms do not necessarily appear the same in everyone with the disease. A friend of Connelly Law told us, "Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are very personal and everyone experiences them differently."