The Alzheimer’s Association kicks off the beginning of National Alzheimer’s Disease Month with a stern warning. Alzheimer’s is an equal opportunity disease; men and women from every race and walk of life are at risk for developing it. If a cure or prevention is not found soon, more than 14 million of today’s baby boomers will develop Alzheimer’s disease by the middle of this century.
“We are in a race against time as the baby boomer generation ages and enters the greatest period of risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease,” said Alan Stone, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association.
First described by Dr. Alois Alzheimer in 1906, Alzheimer’s disease (pronounced ALTS-hi-merz) is a fatal, progressive, degenerative disease. It attacks the brain, resulting in impaired memory, thinking and behavior, and it is the most common form of dementia. The disease usually begins gradually, causing a person to forget recent events and experience difficulty performing familiar tasks.
The rate at which it progresses varies, but the symptoms eventually include confusion, personality and behavior changes, and impaired judgment. Communication becomes difficult as the affected person struggles to find words, finish thoughts or follow directions. At some point, people with the disease will require 24-hour care, including assistance with daily activities such as eating, grooming and toileting. Eventually they will become totally incapable of caring for themselves.
People with Alzheimer’s live an average of eight years but can live for 20 years or more from the onset of symptoms. Today, four million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, which is equal to approximately the combined population of Wyoming, Idaho and Utah. Currently, one out of every 10 people over the age of 65 and nearly half of those over 85 has the disease.