“A pet is never truly forgotten until it is no longer remembered.” Lacie Petitto
It is a person’s rapidly shrinking brain is how a doctor described it to me.
“When people say, ‘You have Alzheimer’s,’ you have no idea what Alzheimer’s is. You know it’s not good. You know there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. That’s the only way you can go. But you really don’t know anything about it. And you don’t know what to expect,” said Nancy Reagan
It is a progressive mental deterioration that can occur in middle or old age, due to generalized degeneration of the brain. It is the most common cause of premature senility.
“What really scares me is Alzheimer’s or premature senility, losing that ability to read and enjoy and to write. And you do it, and some days maybe aren’t so good, and then some days, you really catch a wave, and it’s as good as it ever was,” said Stephen King.
It is a brain slowly dying, the person changing physically and eventually forgetting who their loved ones are.
“Have you ever walked along a shoreline, only to have your footprints washed away? That’s what Alzheimer’s is like. The waves erase the marks we leave behind, all the sandcastles. Some days are better than others,” said Pat Summitt.
It is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for more than half of dementia cases.
“The thing about Alzheimer’s is that it’s sort of like all these little, small deaths along the way, before they actually physically die,” said Lucinda Williams.
People can eventually become bedridden, unable to move, and unable to eat or drink.
“Suffering is always hard to quantify especially when the pain is caused by as cruel a disease as Alzheimer’s. Most illnesses attack the body; Alzheimer’s destroys the mind and, in the process, annihilates the very self,” said Jeffrey Kluger.
Alzheimer’s isn’t a normal part of aging. Even so, the greatest risk factor is increasing age, and the majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older. But it’s not just a disease of old age. More than 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 have younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
“People do not realize that Alzheimer’s is not old age. It is a progressive and fatal disease and staggering amounts of people develop Alzheimer’s every day,” said Melina Kanakaredes.
It worsens over time. It’s a progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over the years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, people lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment.
“I think the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s are the hardest. Particularly because the person knows that they are losing awareness. They’re aware that they’re losing awareness, and you see them struggling,” said Patti Davis.
It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. On average, a person with the disease lives four to eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as twenty years.
“Alzheimer’s it is a barren disease, as empty and lifeless as a desert. It is a thief of hearts and souls and memories,” said Nicholas Sparks.
It has no current cure, but treatments for symptoms are available and research continues. Although current treatments cannot stop Alzheimer’s from progressing, they can temporarily slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and improve quality of life for those with malady and their caregivers.
“It’s a horrible thing. Some people are naive about it. They think, ‘Oh it’s just your memory,’ but my mother was in terrible pain. Your body closes down. She didn’t know if she’d eaten or if she wanted to eat. She couldn’t remember how to walk. Towards the end, she didn’t know us. It came gradually, then it got worse,” said Bonnie Tyler.
There is a worldwide effort under way to find better ways to treat the disease, delay its onset, and prevent it from developing.
“Alzheimer’s is literally killing us, and the only way to fight this ‘crime’ is through a groundswell of people who continue to raise their voices and funds to ensure it gets the attention it deserves,” said Terri Gerritson.
There will be people who will pass by talk about dementia or Alzheimer’s because it hasn’t touched them. They may not know what it’s like to have a loved one who has fought a battle against it.
“I loved my husband very much, and it was heartbreaking to have him develop Alzheimer’s disease, and to stand by and watch him decline in his ability to take care of himself,” said Sandra Day O’Connor.
It is time to raise awareness of this cruel disease.
“I am committed to helping the Alzheimer’s Society in any way I can. My family and I rely on the help of organizations like the Alzheimer’s Society to help us understand the disease and guide us in the care of my grandmother. It’s been a privilege to meet so many people with dementia,” said Carey Mulligan.
It is a nightmare that has no time limit no odds or a treatment or drug that can slow it down.
“Alzheimer’s is a disease for which there is no effective treatment whatsoever. To be clear, there is no pharmaceutical agent, no magic pill that a doctor can prescribe that will have any significant effect on the progressive downhill course of this disease,” said David Perlmutter.
No percent or odds to beat, just a family member who doesn’t know you, and will never ever remember you again.
“It is a devastating disease. It was painful for me and my family to watch my grandfather deteriorate. We must find a cure for this horrible disease,” said David Hyde Pierce.
I wouldn’t wish dementia or Alzheimer’s on anyone.
“We have all witnessed family, friends, or medical workers who have chosen to provide years of loving care to persons who may suffer from Alzheimer’s or other debilitating illnesses precisely because they are human persons, not for any other reason,” said Neil Gorsuch.
Saddest disease ever!
Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.