The thing you have to understand about Alzheimer’s is that there are no survivors. The prognosis is never good. It is, in fact, always death. I think this is what makes raising awareness for Alzheimer’s so difficult. With other diseases there is always an aspect of hope and the ability to rally around that hope can be incredibly powerful. This does not exist with Alzheimer’s.
The thing you have to understand about Alzheimer’s is that it is a mental illness, and therefore invisible. As a society, we don’t do a great job of treating invisible illnesses with the same empathy we do physical illnesses. They make us uncomfortable. They make us fearful for our own mental health. They make us want to stay away.
The thing you have to understand about Alzheimer’s is that it takes away everything you ever knew. And not in the cheesy way The Notebook depicts where a beautiful love story can magically bring back your memories. I’m talking about an irreversible process that slowly denies you the ability to do everything you once knew how to do. Speak. Use the bathroom by yourself. Eat.
The thing you have to understand about Alzheimer’s is that it makes other people sad. They don’t want to remember you as a husk of your former self. So they stay away, hoping to instead remember you as you once were: a vibrant human with interests and passions.
The thing you have to understand about Alzheimer’s is that while you might have the option to stay away, those closest to the person diagnosed with the disease do not have that luxury. They are in the trenches day in and day out, slowly seeing their loved one leave them inch by painful inch. There is no escape for the caregivers. There is no option to stay away.
The thing you have to understand about Alzheimer’s is that it doesn’t just take away the memories of the person affected. It takes away the memories you have of that person and replaces them with difficult and painful memories. And though you try to keep hold of the good ones, as the years progress the painful memories become more prevalent, pushing the older and happier memories to the recesses of the brain.
The thing you have to understand about Alzheimer’s is that it is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Every 66 seconds someone in the U.S. develops the disease. That you are more likely to die of Alzheimer’s than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. And that by 2050 it is estimated 16 million Americans might be affected by the disease.
The thing you have to understand about Alzheimer’s is that it is not a natural consequence of aging, but it does affect those who are older. And isn’t that the goal? To grow old and to be able to enjoy life after putting in years and years of hard work? But this is being denied not only to those with the disease, but those who are charged with caring for them.
The thing you have to understand about Alzheimer’s is that I’m over it. The thing you have to understand is that I am going to do everything I can to make sure that other families are spared the heartache my family experienced. The thing you have to understand is I can’t do it alone. Please consider making a donation to The Longest Day this year. https://act.alz.org/site/SPageServer?pagename=tld_participant_center_2017&pc2_page=center&fr_id=9704
Statistics courtesy of the Alzheimer’s Association: http://www.alz.org/facts/overview.asp