The Alzheimer's Association's newly-released report on Alzheimer's Disease is a call-to-action for Americans to redouble our efforts to prevent and fight this progressive, and ultimately fatal, brain disease.
The report cites some alarming statistics:
- One in three seniors dies from Alzheimer's or another dementia;
- The number of people age 65 and older with the disease is expected to grow from 5.1 million to 7.1 million in the next ten years.
- Caring for those with Alzheimer's will cost an estimated $226 billion this year, rising to $1.1 trillion by 2050.
These are grim facts, indeed, but they do not tell the whole story. There is good reason to hope the trajectory of disease--and billions of dollars spent fighting it-- will not be endlessly upward. We are discovering more and more about the tremendous resilience-building and regenerative-capacity of the brain, giving us reason to hope that Baby Boomers and future generations will not suffer to the same extent as current seniors.
I will always be grateful to Dave Fox, who forever changed my perspective on Alzheimer's. Dave came to me shortly after being diagnosed and asked for my help. I told him Alzheimer's is a progressive brain disease, and there was nothing we could do to help him beyond the available medication that had only minimal impact on the disease. He countered that since his brain was still working, there must be something we could do.
From that moment, instead of viewing the Alzheimer's diagnosis as hopeless, I began to focus on what we can do, to help stimulate cognition and maintain a patient's quality of life for as long as possible, much like we do with other brain insults such as stroke. We worked with Dave for several years, helping him achieve daily goals and continue to contribute in meaningful ways to his family and work in the midst of his growing memory deficits.
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Published on The Huffington Post April 8, 2015