Friday, April 19, 2024

Editorial: November marks Alzheimer’s awareness

November is full of celebrations and history. It’s the month for the American Thanksgiving, Black Solidarity Day and, of course, Black Friday. However, it is also an awareness month, just like the other months of the year. This November, it is a time to remember and support those who have Alzheimer’s. 

Alzheimer’s is often known as a neurological disease that affects the elderly and their memory capacity. While yes, the largest demographic with Alzheimers is 65 and older, according to Alzheimer’s Association, an organization with informational materials on the disease, anyone of any age can be subject to the disease. It doesn’t just affect memory, either. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause for dementia, but not the only one. Dementia is the slow degradation of memory, being able to form new memories and recall old ones, and can affect behavior. 

Alzheimer’s has no cure, but there is treatment. However, the medication can only slow the decay over time. Alzhiemer’s is also not inevitable, and it is not a normal part of aging. 

Alzheimer’s Association states on their website: “Scientists believe Alzheimer’s disease prevents parts of a cell’s factory from running well. They are not sure where the trouble starts. But just like a real factory, backups and breakdowns in one system cause problems in other areas. As damage spreads, cells lose their ability to do their jobs and eventually die, causing irreversible changes in the brain.”

Alzheimer’s Association also releases an annual report of the statistics regarding the disease. The organization’s most recent report shows more than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, one in three seniors will die with the disease, fewer than one in five Americans are aware of mild cognitive impairment which can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s and by 2050 scientists predict that 12.7 million Americans 65 and older will be subject to dementia due to Alzheimer’s. 

These statistics demonstrate that the disease will become even more commonplace than it already is, yet the common discussion is silent. There is rarely a space to discuss Alzheimer’s, and doctors are admittedly reluctant to diagnose patients, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Many patients are often placed into homes if it’s financially viable, or their family members take care of them on their own time. It can be painful to watch a loved one slowly slip from you, as their cherished memories of what and who they love fade away. They can feel “not themselves” as their behavior changes due to dementia. There is undiscussed trauma there. 

This month, spare time for your loved ones, especially those that are elderly. Educate your family, research the options and be prepared if the time ever comes. Donate to organizations such as Alzheimer’s Association to better science and medicine and extend resources for those in need. Wear a purple ribbon, the color for Alzheimer’s awareness. Do not forget those who may struggle to recall your name, or your face, because the love they have for you is still there.

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