For some reason, lately I have been acutely aware of the passage of time. My kids are growing up at an insane pace. Although I still feel 22, apparently I am quite rapidly bearing down on 40. And my parents and in-laws are inching up toward the age when I lost my grandparents. It is weird to think of them as “late in life” because they are all quite active and healthy, but the reality is my parents are aging and may someday require my care.
I have been thinking about my grandparents a lot lately and how 3/4 of them really kept their mental faculties until their deaths. Their bodies gave out long before their minds. While that often makes it feel like they were taken way too soon, I am blessed that I don’t have any memories of my grandparents not knowing who I was or what was going on around them.
I know many of us are not so lucky. Alzheimer’s disease is an all too real reality in many of our lives. It has touched so many of my friends and readers as they watch their grandparents, or even parents, start to slip away. It is incurable, devastating and far too common. Did you know that more than 5 million Americans are currently suffering from Alzheimer’s? It is the 6th leading cause of death and the ONLY top ten cause of death that can not be treated, prevented or cured.
For every one of those 5 million, there is a family that loves them, cares for them and desperately wants to catch a glimpse of who they used to be. One in TEN adults cares for someone with Alzheimer’s. And it is estimated that the hours providing care for family members is costing our economy over 220 BILLION dollars. This disease is having a HUGE impact on all of us.
Yet while October was filled with pink ribbons (a cause that has greatly impacted my family), and in November men are growing spotty beards to bring attention to prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s isn’t talked about near as much. There almost seems to be a shame associated with it. For all the good and bad that has come with breast cancer being “pinkified”, one of the best things about bringing this disease to the public’s attention is that there has been a tremendous amount of money and research done towards its prevention and treatment.
To do medical research you need one main thing (besides money). You need people. Sadly, one of the biggest barriers to Alzheimer’s research is that they simply don’t have enough participants. And it isn’t just that they need people currently suffering from Alzheimer’s, but they need healthy people as well to learn more about how our brains work and what precursors there are to the disease. 80% of research studies simply can’t get enough participants to continue.
The Banner Alzheimer’s Institute has started a registry of over 44,000 people who are passionate about seeing an end to this disease. They are provided with updates on the latest research about the disease and are provided with opportunities to participate in studies to help scientists learn more about preventing and treating this awful disease.
Here is the thing: I have not personally been touched by Alzheimer’s like I have cancer (seriously, name a cancer and I have likely had a family member who has survived it or died from it). But Alzheimer’s is all around me and there is NOTHING that can be done to prevent it striking someone I love, or even me. So if I can do something that basically requires very little of me, but might lead to something that stops this disease, I am all about signing up.
And that is what the Alzheimer’s registry is about. It is so easy to sign up and your privacy is very important to them. They need people of all ages (over 18), all ethnicities, those of us who have a family history of the disease and those who don’t. You are not obligated to participate in anything by signing up, but you do give them a bigger pool in which to chose participants from. And this is key to finding ways to prevent and cure this terrible disease.
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. I don’t think it is a coincidence that it is also Family Caregivers Month. I can’t think of an easier way to lend my support to this cause than signing up. So I have. Will you?
How has your life been touched by Alzheimer’s Disease?
Disclosure: Banner Alzheimer’s Institute provided an incentive for this post. When I heard about the work they are doing, it seemed like a no brainer to spread the word. I was not required to sign up for the registry to post, that is simply my way of putting my money where my mouth is.