When the team at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute (BAI) asked me to get involved in spreading the word about Taking Action Against Alzheimer’s, I agreed to participate in this important campaign. While I feel very lucky that neither of my late parents experienced this devastating condition, I have seen the impact it has had on the families of close friends who have moms and dads with Alzheimer’s disease.
National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month
In addition to being National Family Caregivers Month, November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. I learned a lot about this disease during BAI’s blogger briefing. Jessica Langbaum, PhD, principal scientist at BAI and associate director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative in Phoenix, Ariz., shared some staggering statistics,* which are only going to increase as baby boomers get older:
- Every 67 seconds someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
- More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s.
- Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death.
- Alzheimer’s is the only top 10 cause of death that cannot be prevented, treated or cured.
Sadly, Alzheimer’s has a far reaching impact when it comes to caregiving:
- One in 10 adults cares for someone with Alzheimer’s.
- Between Medicare, Medicaid, out-of-pocket and other costs, the 2014 costs of Alzheimer’s will equal $214 billion (yes, that’s billions), and these costs are projected to increase to $1.2 trillion in 2050.
- In 2013, caregivers provided 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care, which is valued at over $220.2 billion.
Boomer girls, I want you to especially listen up because women are at high risk. “Women are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s because they live longer,” said Dr. Langbaum. “Plus, women are more often shouldering the burden of caregiving for those with Alzheimer’s.”
What’s being done to prevent Alzheimer’s?
As I listened to these numbers, my heart started to beat faster. I wanted to yell and scream that something must be done to STOP this disease from multiplying. I’ve planked for pink to raise dollars to fight breast cancer. I’ve poured ice water over my head to support the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Now it’s time to pop on my favorite color purple to help raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease”a very devastating form of dementia.
A new era of research aims to focus on prevention. “Alzheimer’s develops in the brain years before symptoms appear,” said Dr. Langbaum. “Research has progressed to the point that we can detect changes in the brain associated with the disease one or two decades before the first signs of Alzheimer’s.”
According to BAI’s website, “Research into Alzheimer’s prevention is now at a crucial turning point. With Alzheimer’s research a government priority, some of the nation’s most respected research organizations have formed collaborative relationships to accelerate their work.”
Unfortunately, 80 percent of research studies fail to attract enough participants. “Researchers must screen dozens of people,” said Dr. Langbaum. “We may screen 30,000 people to get 2,000 to launch a study.”
How You Can Help Raise Alzheimer’s Awareness This Month
With over 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, and those numbers expected to triple by 2050, it’s more important than ever to get informed on the prevention and treatment of dementia and promote greater understanding of the disease and its symptoms so that it can be detected and treated early.
Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, which occurs every November, was established to honor the millions of Americans living with Alzheimer’s, through advocacy for a cure, awareness and education.
In addition to raising awareness and supporting those with the disease, Alzheimer’s Awareness Month also reminds us of the importance of caregivers, who are there to help their loved ones as they tread the difficult path ahead. A month of special attention helps us all focus on achieving those goals, and it helps to de-stigmatize Alzheimer’s disease throughout our society.
More Ways to Raise Alzheimer’s Awareness
We’ve compiled a list of 10 things people can do to help make an impact and raise awareness, not just during Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, but all 365 days of the year. Learn more:
Walk to End Alzheimer’s
Communities all across the nation participate in the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which aims “to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.” The collective show of support is a visible demonstration of solidarity in the fight against Alzheimer’s. With assistance from the Alzheimer’s Association, participants endeavor to meet an individual fundraising goal, and the proceeds directly help the association in its mission to provide education and support to families of those with Alzheimer’s, advocate for their needs, and help advance research studies into treatment and prevention. Visit the Walk to End Alzheimer’s page to search for a walk near you. They usually take place in the fall, so it’s a great lead-up to Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in November.
Inform Yourself : Alzheimer’s Forecast by State
The progression of Alzheimer’s is happening more quickly than almost any other illness in the U.S., but there is still no cure. You can help raise awareness of the seriousness of this epidemic by sharing our infographic slideshow that illustrates the frighteningly rapid increase predicted for the disease – an increase that will disproportionately affect some states more than others over the next few decades.
Join Our ALZ Awareness Campaign
We want to know why ending Alzheimer’s is important to you – as an individual, as a family and as a caregiver. If you’ve been affected by the disease – or even if you haven’t been directly affected – we are reaching out and asking you to share “I want to #EndAlz because… ” It’s a chance to speak out and share your commitment to ending Alzheimer’s, and we’ll share our submitted photos with you so that we can all see the myriad of reasons why it’s so important to #EndAlz.
Make a Donation to an Alzheimer’s Organization
There are truly so many ways to donate, and there are numerous opportunities listed on the Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America web pages, if you need a place to start. You can simply donate money online and it will go towards the fight to end Alzheimer’s, but there are other ways to donate, too – you can donate stock or an old car and receive some tax benefits to boot; you can donate to the cause of a participant in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s; you can plan a bequest in your will; and much more.
Inform Yourself and Share the Things You Can Do To Help End Alzheimer’s
Our friends at healthinfi.com have a wonderful infographic that you can share on your favorite social media site – simply use the one-click buttons at the top of the page. The infographic includes effective ways you can join the fight against the disease, from joining clinical trials to writing your congressperson. We hope you’ll find it a great tool for raising awareness. And, after learning and sharing, it’s just one more step to start doing.
Host Your Own Alzheimer’s Benefit
“Have fun, do good, end Alzheimer’s” – that’s what the Alzheimer’s Association wants people to do when they express an interest in holding a fundraising event. It can be as simple as a movie night where you pass around a donation envelope, or as elaborate as a benefit party to commemorate the life of a loved one. No matter how you choose to raise awareness among your own social circle, the Alzheimer’s Association has a wide range of ideas and resources to get you started.
Raise Awareness in Your Workplace
Alzheimer’s has an enormous cost in the workplace as well as for individuals and families. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “44% of family caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s are employed full or part time.” The workplace is also a terrific forum for getting the word out about ending the disease. Small donations from many employees can add up to a significant contribution to ending Alzheimer’s, and the Association has fun ideas for easy workplace activities, such as “Go casual for a cause” Friday.
Participate in National Memory Screening
This National Memory Screening event aims to provide free memory tests with the goal of early detection and treatment for those showing signs of cognitive impairment. You can be a source of encouragement and strength for friends, family and loved ones simply by participating, but if you would like to do more to raise awareness, host or visit a site near you. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America provides the materials, and you locate a willing health care professional to administer the testing. Visit their website for more information.
Volunteer with a Local or National Organization
Most charitable organizations, large and small, rely on the help of dedicated volunteers to spread the word, support the cause, and help keep things running. The Alzheimer’s Association has chapters throughout the U.S., and the Alzheimer Society of Canada has local chapters in communities all across Canada. Both organizations can always use help with events, office work, phone calls, and more.
Share Your Alzheimer’s Story
So much can be done to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and directly touch others’ hearts simply be speaking out. The Alzheimer Society of Canada website hosts a Creative Space where individuals and families affected by Alzheimer’s or another dementia can contribute artwork or written work talking about their experiences. Through the Alzheimer’s Association, you can sign up for speaker’s bureau opportunities all across the U.S., or create a web page as a moving tribute to a loved one.
How Can You Help?
The Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry is a platform for those who are ready to take part in prevention research. The registry is currently made up of a growing community of 44,000 members who are passionate about combating the disease. Members are provided with updates on the latest scientific advances about the disease and can learn about study opportunities in their community.
Note that you will not have to give personal information and you don’t have to have a family history. As one member said, “I joined the registry in honor of my husband, who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at age 50. I can’t bear the thought of one of my son’s developing this disease also.”
Has your family been impacted by Alzheimer’s disease? Please share a comment. Then pass along this post so others can understand the sense of urgency with Alzheimer’s awareness. It’s about our future and our children’s future too.
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