When I began this blog a little over a month ago it was with the intent to promote readership of my books and initiate a dialogue on their subject matter. To date I have focused my posts on my historical novel Palo Duro. However, in keeping with the theme that “Life is History,” I found myself reflecting on the passage of over 100 years since Dr. Alois Alzheimer first described the symptoms of cognitive impairment and brain damage, now a recognized disease that bears his name.
There is still no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Today’s drugs mask symptoms but do not treat its underlying cause nor delay its progression. Citing a 2016 World Health Organization (WHO) report some 44 million people currently are affected by the disease. That number is projected to rise to 135 million by the year 2050.
My father was afflicted with Alzheimer’s and my earlier book (a personal memoir) delves not only into our relationship, but the terrible effects of dementia and my family’s efforts to understand and cope with his mental deterioration and eventual death.
Alzheimer’s is such an insidious disease. I believe the worst aspect for the individual with the disease, at least at first, is knowing what is happening and being unable to do anything about it. I know the worst aspect for anyone that takes on the responsibility of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, is the certainty that currently there is no cure and no matter what you do the disease is fatal. Drugs and therapy may slow the disease’s progression, but memory will fade and eventually even family members and friends will become distant and often total strangers. In time the disease will render the individual totally unable to do anything for themselves. The body becomes a shell, and the mind a quagmire of jumbled images and information that if processed at all only results in confusion, anger and despair. – excerpt from Silver Taps.
I encourage anyone with a family member or friend with Alzheimer’s disease to advocate for further research leading to a cure. Even if you are fortunate to not be personally affected at the moment, should the WHO’s projections hold, it is highly likely that you will be sometime in the not too distant future.