I read that every seventy seconds, someone in the United States of America develops Alzheimer’s Disease which means that it is a looming public health catastrophe. As time goes by, it will become more prevalent. The latest figures show that more than 5 million Americans are living with this illness and this is only taking into account one country.
My late husband fought against becoming a statistic and I felt the same way as I watched him descend into the fear of forgetting and becoming confused. But, there were positive aspects as well. He managed to play bridge in spite of the illness and retained his gentle, loving nature till the end when a stroke ended his life.
I believe that the only way we will be able to defeat Alzheimer’s is through passionate political advocacy. We need to mobilize public support and resources. People have led similar campaigns against HIV / AIDS and breast cancer by raising their voices and organizing fund raisers like Walk for Cancer.
The problem with dementia and Alzheimer’s is that the people who are affected are unable to speak for themselves; unable to do any of the above. There is also a stigma associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. Many people that I met spoke about their loved one’s Alzheimer’s in hushed voices, turning it into a private ordeal. The patient was moved to care facilities or behind closed doors where exhausted family members kept silent about the deepest indignities they witnessed and endured. And so advocacy is almost out of the question here.
Unlike the families described above, our family spoke about this illness and invited friends over at least once a week as we did not want my husband to feel like an outcast.