September 21st Alzheimer’s Awareness Day
by Joanne Elder
In addition to promoting Science Fiction Thrillers, including my recently released Science Fiction Thriller, SPECTRA, I’ve made it my mandate to build awareness for Alzheimer’s Disease. Half of the author ebook royalties for SPECTRA are being donated to Alzheimer’s research.
My father, William Cavendish Macneill, was diagnosed with this ruthless and cruel disease several years before he passed away. Upon his diagnosis, I looked into his eyes and saw the man who raised me, the man who was a WWII pilot, the man who was a successful engineer, the husband to my mother. I also saw confusion and fear. Shortly before he passed away, I looked into those same eyes and saw something I’d never seen before: his spark for life was gone. The disease had extinguished it.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. People with Alzheimer’s experience a reduction in cognitive function as a result of two changes in the brain: the build-up of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. The plaques are dense deposits of protein and cellular material outside the brain’s nerve cells. Tangles are twisted fibres that build up inside the nerve cells. As the disease progresses, nerve cells shrink and die. Ultimately, the brain itself shrinks. The person afflicted is left with their memories and personality stripped from them and is barely able to recognize the people they love. They ultimately require full time care in order to live.
Over 5 million people in the United States have received this heart wrenching diagnosis. One in eleven people over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s. More frightening is the fact that 14% of Alzheimer’s sufferers are under the age of 65. It costs money to care for those with Alzheimer’s. The economic burden of dementia in Canada alone is $15 billion annually. As the baby boomers reach their golden years this dollar figure is expected to rise to $153 billion by 2038. In the United States it is expected that by 2050, 19 million people will have Alzheimer’s.
We are in troubled economic times and the effect of the aging population will only add to the problems. There are increasing lifespans and slumping birthrates. In the coming years, the population in the workforce will drop significantly. The surge of people over 65 will create a huge draw on pensions. Add to this the cost of dementia. Today money for donations is scarce. At least we can build awareness for this terrible disease that could afflict any of us in our later years.