“If you know one person with Alzheimer’s, you know one person with Alzheimer’s,” my mom reminds me often. Every person has his or her own story. Each story has different, heart-breaking details, as the disease steals away reason and personality and physical strength and coordination. One thing does not change: the disease moves inexorably onward.
My dad has Alzheimer’s. He’s one of some 88,000 Minnesotans over the age of 65 who live with Alzheimer’s. Numbers from the Alzheimer’s Association tell part of the story that touches more people each year:
• One in nine people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s disease.
• About one-third of people age 85 and older have Alzheimer’s disease.
• By 2025, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to increase 40%.
• Older African-Americans and Hispanics are proportionately more likely than older whites to have Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
• Nearly 250,000 Minnesotans care for family members with Alzheimer’s disease.
Perhaps you don’t know one person with Alzheimer’s now. You will.
Where’s the hope?
I’ve written before about my dad’s struggle with Alzheimer’s, and about the critical importance of research:
Recent research has also improved early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, which can give time to plan and prepare for life with the disease, and the opportunity to participate in clinical trials. Investing in research is not only the right thing to do — it also makes economic sense for an aging America to try to reduce the incidence of a very expensive disease.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there’s not enough money:
“The National Institutes of Health spends over $6 billion a year on cancer research, over $4 billion on heart disease research and over $3 billion on HIV/AIDS research. But it spends only $480 million on Alzheimer’s research.”
Research can make a difference. That’s why this Saturday, September 27, is the Walk for Alzheimer’s. If you want to walk, go to alz.org to sign up. If you’d like to help, but your schedule is full, go to alz.org and click on “Find a walk.” Enter your zip code and then click on a city and on a team to make a donation. (Or write in a name and contribute to my favorite walker — my sister, Annette Peterson.)
Together, we can make a difference.