I was listening to an internet radio talk show last week and I heard a seemingly intelligent woman make an ignorant statement about Alzheimer's. She said the reason we are seeing so much Alzheimer's these days is because we have become a society of non-thinkers who rarely engage our minds. The statement was shocking to me because I have been taking it for granted that at the bare minimum folks understand Alzheimer's as a progressive and devastating disease for which we currently have no cure. Her statements took me back to the early to mid 1980's when there was so much confusion and misinformation around the HIV/AIDS epidemic. They reminded me of an exchange between my father and myself back then after a heated argument over dinner. I was rushing to get the dishes done as quickly as possible so that I could go to my room and be free from this man whom I characterized as a tyrant. My father suggested that I should slow down with the dishes because if any one of us had AIDS we would certainly all have it soon as fast as I was doing those dishes. I turned to him and asked, "Dad, did you have sex with your plate because that is one of the few ways to spread AIDS." I did go to my room at that point but it wasn't so much by choice.
But this notion of misconception is not a commonality to celebrate. So why are we hoping these two diseases are peas in a pod? We are hoping that Alzheimer's and dementia will experience the same kind of attention and research that made it possible for HIV/AIDS to transform from an almost certain death sentence marked by cruel and unusual suffering to a controlled disease.
Alzheimer's is now poised to be the train wreck of the 21st century unless breakthroughs are on the horizon. We are already facing daunting challenges in healthcare and treatment. Apparently, we still have work to do in terms of raising awareness and public perception. What can we do to derail the impending train wreck? We can continue to work to raise awareness, demand notice from our politicians, fight for funding for a cure, and encourage treatment options through volunteerism and donation. We can also choose to back those senior advocates, physicians, scientists, families, caregivers, and businesses that participate in the fight against Alzheimer's and dementia. Above all that, we can celebrate our seniors as worthy of the attention and dedication needed to beat these diseases.
Listen to our most recent discussion about Alzheimer's and dementia on Senior Agenda. Post comments here or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We welcome your contributions.