My grandmother was gone long before her body gave out.
The effects of dementia diseases can be among the most painful reminders to each of us the frailty of life. My grandmother, God rest her soul, was not an exception. Near the end, she would look directly into my wife’s eyes and call her – with complete confidence – a stranger’s name.
By that time, like the families of over 5 million individuals afflicted with the Alzheimer’s disease each year, we understood. I remember recognizing the cruel conflict of how I could physically touch her hand, but the disease had walled up my ability to reach her mentally and emotionally.
We spend a lot of resources promoting healthy living. Exercise right, eat well and keep regular visits to our doctors. From breakfast cereal commercials to someone hawking a pill promising increased vitality, we are fixated on living forever.
But like our house, no matter how well we take care of the plumbing, if the electrical goes bad, everything changes.
According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, scientist believe there are two types of identifiers found after the mental short-circuiting occurs: “beta-amyloid plaques—sticky clumps of protein fragments and cellular material that form outside and around neurons; and neurofibrillary tangles—insoluble twisted fibers composed largely of the protein tau that build up inside nerve cells.”
While that sounds clear and clinical, scientists admit they aren’t sure if this is a contributor or result of the disease. And that underscores why we need to continue to drive – if not accelerate – the funding and research behind the treatment of dementia.
According to the Pew Research Center, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 years of age each day. And considering there are 75 million baby boomers aging into the sweet spot of when dementia-related issues are most likely to begin unfolding, we are staring into a statistical bubble. Respectfully putting all emotional pain and suffering aside, the economic impact on families and healthcare services could be crippling.
As of today, we know less about dementia that we actually know. But what we do know is genetics can be a big driver as can taking a personal role in keeping our minds active and challenged. In the end, however, this problem is much larger than simply doing a crossword puzzle each day. Solving the merciless effects of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia will take money for research, raising awareness, and providing comfort.
And for us believers, a flood of prayers wouldn’t hurt either.
How you can help:
On October 8th there will be over 600 communities participating in a national Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Locally in the Bay Area there will be a walk Galveston Island. A short 5K (3.1 miles) walk will be held on Stewart Beach Pavilion. The 2016 goal is to raise $142,500. Registration begins at 8 am; walk kicks off at 9 am. For more information, visit www.alz.org for more walk information as well as additional resources.