Alzheimer’s disease has taken an unfortunate step in front of the national news spotlight as of late. The last two evenings, I have seen features on the evening news highlighting the devastating effects of the disease both as a public health epidemic and as a personal, family struggle.
While most people in a recent survey said they would encourage a loved one to seek early diagnosis if they suspected Alzheimer’s disease, when faced with the reality, only a small number sought out early diagnosis.
Voters for the American Express Members Project recently chose the Alzheimer’s Disease: Early Detection Matters campaign as the project they would most like to see funded. Close to 90,000 card members cast a vote—choosing from more than 1,000 potential projects. In the end, the winner was a campaign that will educate people about the importance of early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s—receiving $1.5 million in funding.
Last week, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor shared personal testimony before the Senate Special Committee on Aging about the burden of Alzheimer’s disease. O’Connor stepped down from the court in 2006 to care for her husband, who has the disease. As many people know, Alzheimer’s is an overwhelming disease-both on a personal level for families and for society.
About 10 million of the almost 45 million caregivers in the United States care for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Most of these caregivers are not prepared for their new role, which takes a toll on their mental and physical health. Furthermore, Alzheimer’s disease is often called a “family disease,” because the daily stress of watching a loved one slowly decline affects the whole family.