A conversation I had this morning with a family member reminded me of something I’ve actually known for decades.
Alzheimer’s disease claims many more victims than just those who are afflicted with this killer.
A member of my family (not the person with whom I talked today) is battling the disease. His condition appears to be worsening. He is confused; he has lost virtually all the examples of mental acuity he used to display.
Eventually, this family member likely could lose his ability to speak, feed himself, bathe himself. What then? It falls on those closest to him — his wife and his children and grandchildren — to bear an unbearable burden.
Which brings me to my point. It is that Alzheimer’s disease inflicts far more harm on loved ones than it does on the actual victims.
How do I know this? My own mother died of the disease in September 1984. She was just 61 years of age when she left us. We carried that burden to the end.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that about 5 million Americans are afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, a neurological disorder that robs individuals of their cognition. It steals their identity. It turns vibrant human beings into shells of their former selves.
As the nation continues to age, the number of Alzheimer’s diagnoses is bound to increase, piling on more heartache to loved ones who are left to care for them.
While the nation’s political leaders debate and argue over how — or whether — to spend public money on more Alzheimer’s research, it is good to remember the toll being taken on an increasing number of Americans who are left to cope with the ravages this killer brings to its victims.
Do we devote enough national attention to battling this killer, let alone devoting enough of our resources to search for effective treatments and, indeed, even a cure? Not to my way of thinking.
Nor to those who are left to care for those caught in the grip of a disease that robs them of their very being.