September is World Alzheimer's Month
By Doug Sheaffer
Currently it's the only one of the Top 10 causes of death that can't be prevented or cured. And it impacts all ages. In fact, early onset Alzheimer's can (and has) already touched over 200,000 folks under 65 -- some as young as in their 30's.
Even if you do not have to deal with it on the very personal level of having the diagnosis yourself, there's a very good chance that you will deal with it as it affects loved ones around you.
More and more we hear, read, or see information, movies, documentaries about the subject -- and awareness is good indeed. Some old myths still make the rounds, (it's all part of getting older; it's just memory loss, etc.), but almost equal to that misinformation, is the "It's all over." mentality that runs alongside other discussions.
Let's take a look at a couple facts before going on: Alzheimer's is a fatal disease process. Eventually, physical abilities begin to deteriorate until even "automatic" processes (eating for example) begin to fail. During the process, personality changes, increased fears and other behaviors can also appear.
As of now -- as mentioned earlier -- there is no defined treatment or cure. However, there are tremendous efforts at research for both treatment and a cure. Hope also runs alongside.
Now let's take another approach. There is a ton of information out there that speaks to what is lost in Alzheimer's, and what those affected by it can no longer do. Fair enough. To a somewhat lesser degree, there is also a lot of information about what folks can still do. (Thankfully, we're seeing more of this type of information in recent years.)
For more detail from a first-hand perspective, go to www.alz.org and hit the link "I Have Alzheimer's". The picture alone is encouraging!
Sometime back, I wrote about a project that's spreading rapidly: The Alzheimer's Café. (www.alzcafes.org). The idea behind this movement is part socialization, part support group, with food, music and fun. It's working well and offers a day out where folks get what you're going through.
Other things that can be done? Make your own list. Certainly a lot more options exist for early stages of the disease than late stage, but the trick is one of perspective, I think.
Often, once a diagnosis is made, there soon follows a list of what you might not be able to do. If we can hear that and translate it as "For now, I'll think about what I can do.", some of the threatened isolation might be avoided--or at least postponed.
Some folks took it as an incentive to even try new things -- yoga, Tai Chi, a new hobby, journaling, and so on. In some areas, there are groups who get together (even without an Alzheimer's Café) and do things. If not in our area..well, something to think about, perhaps. As I said: Make your own list -- it's still your life.
Information & Assistance: Long Beach: 642-3624, 888-571-6558; Raymond: 942-2177, 888-571-6557, www.o3a.org