Wear purple this November. Why? Do so to signify you’re participation in raising awareness about Alzheimer’s disease. Yes, November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.
Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects the brain by slowly destroying the affected person’s memory and thinking skills. In its most severe stage, the affected person loses the ability to carry out the simplest tasks and needs the help of a caregiver.
Alzheimer’s usually occurs among people in their mid-60s, but it can arise earlier than that. According to experts, people who suffer from the disease who are less than 60 years old can usually blame genetic mutation as the cause. As for late-onset Alzheimer’s, they say it’s probably induced by a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Scientists are still trying to fully understand what causes the disease though.
Alzheimer’s is characterized by the presence of plaques and fibrillary tangles in the brain. These abnormal clumps and tangled bundles of fiber were first found in a 50-year-old woman identified as Auguste D. Her case is considered to be the first ever case of Alzheimer’s to be identified. The psychiatrist who discovered the disease more than a century ago, Dr. Alois Alzheimer, would later beits namesake.
Learn more about Alzheimer’s from the National Institutes on Aging (NIA).
Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death, although recent estimates put it roughly in third place behind heart disease and cancer. It is also the only disease among the top 10 causes of death in the country that cannot be prevented, slowed down, or cured (yet). This makes raising awareness of the disease very important.
Right now, Alzheimer’s affects more than five million Americans. It is the leading cause of dementia and currently affects 60 to 70 percent of the 47.5 million people who have dementia in the world, according to the World Health Organization.
The numbers are expected to increase in the future. A study forecasts cases will quadruple by 2050, meaning one in 85 people worldwide will be living with the disease. Forty-three percent of prevalent cases will need a high level of care like that provided by a nursing home.
The US currently pegs the cost of caring for patients with Alzheimer’s and other dementias at $226 billion. By 2050, these costs could reach up to $1.1 trillion. Aside from financial costs, caring for a person with Alzheimer’s takes a toll on a caregiver’s physical and emotional well-being.
But if onset and progression of the disease could be delayed for a year through intervention (such as immunization therapy, drug therapies, cognitive training, and physical activity), the same study that issued the forecast says there would be nearly 9.2 million fewer cases of the disease by 2050.
The NIA also suggests being well informed as an important long-term strategy. These information programs can include teaching families about the stages of Alzheimer’s and ways to deal with difficult behaviros and other caregiving challenges.
It’s been more than 30 years since President Ronald Reagan designated November as the National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. This year, you can help raise awareness for the disease.
Here are some ideas from the Alzheimer’s Association:
It’s also worth checking out other organizations advocating for patients of Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers such as Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, ElderCare, and Family Caregiver Alliance.