Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month


November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. Since I lost my own father to this cruel disease, I am intimately familiar with how it slowly steals your loved ones from you.

President Reagan is one of the most famous public figures to have suffered from the disease. After leaving office in 1989, he publicly announced that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1994. In 2011, country-gospel legend Glen Campbell announced he is fighting Alzheimer’s disease.

What is Alzheimer’s?
The Alzheimer’s Association defines Alzheimer’s as “a brain disease that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior.” Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. According to Wikipedia, Alzheimer’s is predicted to affect 1 in 85 people globally by 2050. Since many of the normal signs of aging can be confused with Alzheimer’s, it is important to know the signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s tend to develop slowly, with symptoms increasing over time. Besides becoming forgetful, which is usually not a sign of Alzheimer’s, an individual with the disease forgets things and misplaces items and cannot retrace steps or thoughts to retrieve the info. While many older people without Alzheimer’s strugle to remember a word, Alzheimer’s causes people to forget the meaning of common words. As the disease progresses, Alzheimer’s patients loose the ability to converse, and eventually they may forget how to speak at all.
The personality and moods of an Alzheimer’s patient change, usually for the worse. They may no longer remember loved ones. If a patient survives these stages, he may eventually forget how to eat, smile, and otherwise interact with his or her environment on any level.

Alzheimer’s Research
Most of what we know about Alzheimer’s has been discovered in the past 15 years as researchers have discovered links to genetics, brain injuries and brain structure. Drugs have been developed to slow the disease. Research is ongoing into treatment and a possible cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

Nashville Alzheimer Resources
Nashville has several resources to help residents with Alzheimer’s. When my own father reached the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, we turned to McKendree Village in Hermitage, TN, which has 150 beds of skilled nursing care including Alzheimer’s care.
In Nashville the Mid South Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association serves Tennessee and Alabama.