Two years after our wedding, I graduated from college. Mark’s parents and grandma joined my parents, siblings and extended family at the ceremony and reception afterward. During the months leading up to graduation, I had emailed and called both of our families several times to determine who needed a hotel room and who would be making the long road trip in one day.
My in-laws had decided to stay overnight, but as we sat in our little apartment that afternoon, Mark’s grandma became agitated. She was upset and confused and simply wanted to go home. Right away. At the time, it seemed so weird and unlike her, but rather than argue or draw out an awkward situation, they headed home early that day.
Over the following months, Grandma became progressively more forgetful and abrasive – two things she’d never been. Always sharp and active, my husband’s feisty but sweet grandmother was turning into a different person. Though it seemed to be a long process of diagnosis and decline, in hindsight things moved quickly. Before we knew it, she had moved from her house to a nursing home, where she eventually passed away.
Though I’ve never seen the tragic effects of Alzheimer’s up close and personal, my experience with my husband’s family and his grandma’s dementia is enough for me to fear the disease that claims so many vital minds and, eventually, lives.
What I learned on a webinar last week, though, is that we have hope in the fight against Alzheimer’s.
Honestly, I really didn’t know much about it – what causes it, if it can be prevented, the difference between normal aging, dementia and Alzheimer’s. And I certainly didn’t know how many people are affected by this disease each year.
It turns out that Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia (the most common form) and the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. I didn’t even know it actually caused death! And it’s the only one of the top 10 causes of death that cannot currently be prevented, treated or cured.
Wow. Those facts blew my mind, and so do these numbers: 5.4 million Americans are affected by Alzheimer’s, and someone is diagnosed every 6.9 seconds.
I’ve worked for two different health charities in my career, one of which focused on diseases that get a whole lot more attention than Alzheimer’s. But those diseases actually affect fewer people than Alzheimer’s! And that makes me think that perhaps I’m not the only one unaware of the devastating facts surrounding Alzheimer’s.
If you want to learn more about Alzheimer’s, you can find a ton of information at the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute’s website. Whether you have a family member facing this disease right now or just want to become more informed, this site really is the place to go.
Facts and figures weren’t the only thing I heard on the webinar I attended last week. I also found out that the Banner Institute has created an Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry. This registry already has 5,000 people enrolled, but the goal is to sign up 100,000 by next summer.
This is the hope I mentioned earlier. Despite the fact that right now, we have no proven way to prevent or cure Alzheimer’s, the people at the Banner Institute (and, I’m sure, other facilities and organizations around the world) are working hard to correct that. In addition to research, the registry is one of their most hopeful initiatives.
The goal of this registry is to keep you informed of the latest news and advocacy efforts for Alzheimer’s, to provide an unprecedented resource of potential study participants for prevention research, and to offer valuable resources of simple, easy to understand news. By signing up, you aren’t required to participate in any research, though! But you are signing up to help find effective ways to end this disease as quickly as possible. You can sign up today for the Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry.
Have you personally been affected by Alzheimer’s?