I remember when my relative first started to show signs of having Alzheimer’s. It was 1996, and I was visiting them while I was interviewing for a job. I hadn’t been around a lot of people with Alzheimer’s at the time, and I remember calling my parents to discuss what I thought was strange behavior for someone who was relatively young (late 50’s).
Since then, I’ve known several other people with Alzheimer’s. This year, I drove my relative home from Thanksgiving dinner, and it was the first time that I’d heard her discuss Alzheimer’s with me. I know there are a lot of caregivers out there who deal with this everyday, but it gave me a brief appreciation for the challenge.
She’s on a pretty short loop where she would ask me about where she was (my parent’s house), where they live, where I live, and whether I have any kids (who are in the car). This cycle repeats every three minutes for about 40 minutes. On the one hand, I’m amazed that she hasn’t gotten too bad after 16 years with the disease. I’m also amazed that she always recognizes me. I was initially afraid that she would panic halfway through the ride and not know who I was.
On the flipside, while you can have a brief conversation, you know that it will repeat itself shortly. I guess I always hoped that as the disease progressed that the patient would be oblivious to it. Then, she started talking about her disease and how she’s prayed to God for years to take her before the condition got any worse. That was hard to hear. It’s sad to hear someone talk like that, but I know her quality of life has to be much different than it once was.
It made me appreciate the day-to-day challenges of caring fulltime for someone with Alzeimer’s and the need for us to find a cure or even a way to prevent or slow the disease.
Additionally, after visiting the Alzheimer’s Association website, I thought I’d share a few of their facts:
- Today, 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease – 5.2 million aged 65 and over; 200,000 with younger-onset Alzheimer’s. By 2050, as many as 16 million Americans will have the disease.
- Two-thirds of those with the disease – 3.4 million – are women.
- Of Americans aged 65 and over, 1 in 8 has Alzheimer’s, and nearly half of people aged 85 and older have the disease.
- Another American develops Alzheimer’s disease every 69 seconds. In 2050, an American will develop the disease every 33 seconds.
- Most people survive an average of four to eight years after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, but some live as long as 20 years with the disease.