Alzheimer's, a ‘family disease'
November was declared Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month by former president Ronald Reagan. When announcing to the country that he had Alzheimer's disease, he expressed it by saying that he “was going into the sunset of his life”.
Ronald Reagan reached the sunset of his life and he is finally at peace. His family reached the end of a long and painful journey as they traveled that difficult road with him, grieving every step of the way.
However, there are approximately 79,000 persons in the state of Alabama who are still on that difficult journey. In 30 years that number will increase to 130,000. All of those unfortunate victims also have an average of three family members who are impacted by the disease as well.
That is why Alzheimer's disease has been referred to as a “family” disease. The patients live an average of eight to ten years and during that time the family can be devastated – financially, physically, emotionally and socially.
Although, scientists know much more about Alzheimer's disease today than they did in the early 80s, the exact cause is still not known. Researchers do believe that what is bad for our heart is also bad for our brain.
Therefore, it is very important that we keep our cholesterol and homosysteine levels in check as well as exercise at least thirty minutes per day. We are also advised by professionals to treat depression if we are depressed and to keep in touch with friends.
While the scientists are searching for a cause, prevention and treatment, it is important that we reach out to the families that are already on their “sunset” journey with a loved one. Call the families and offer assistance and encouragement.
Research shows that the offer of assistance often does as much good as any assistance actually received. Families need to know that we know they are there, that we care about them and their loved one, and that we know how difficult their present and ongoing journey is. The Alzheimer's Foundation of the South, a free standing health care charity, offers a range of services to families affected by Alzheimer's disease at no cost to the recipients. The Alzheimer's Foundation sponsors support groups throughout Southwest Alabama.
The support group in Brewton meets on the first Monday of each month at noon at McMillan Memorial Hospital.
The speaker for Monday, Dec.5 will be Mrs. Bunnie Sutton from the Alzheimer's Foundation, and she will be speaking on “Managing Difficult Behaviors”. For more information on Alzheimer's disease please call the Alzheimer's Foundation at (251) 660-5661.
For more information on the support group in Brewton, please call Dement Hayes at (251) 867-5369.