The Heartbreak of Alzheimer’s
06. August 2010
Maddie’s recent high school graduation party was a festive event. Her Mom… my dear friend, Rene’ put on a lasagna feast fit for a king! There was cake, ice cream, flowers and gifts. Everyone who loves and cares about Maddie was there… friends, cousins, aunts, uncles, her proud grandma and, of course, big brother, Patrick.
Sadly, Maddie’s step-grandfather, “Rocky,” wasn’t there… not really. Oh, we all talked with him, laughed with him and shared a meal with him. But sadly, he hasn’t really been with us for some time. We’ve all watched helplessly the last few years as our dear friend, “Rocky,” sinks deeper into the private world that is Alzheimer’s disease.
“Rocky” and his loved ones are not alone. I learned recently that the number of people affected by this brain-robbing disease is on a dangerous trajectory. That lesson came during a special event supporting the George G. Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Care Centers. These folks know exactly how Alzheimer’s affects patients and families. They also believe we stand on the brink of a national epidemic unlike anything we’ve ever experienced.
As the highest number of Americans ever reaches retirement age, Alzheimer’s (and other similar progressive and fatal diseases including Huntington’s and Parkinson’s) threaten life as we know it. More than 90,000 families here in San Diego County are coping with these diseases every day.
Despite the best efforts of medical science, there is still no known cause for Alzheimer’s. The major risk factor is age.
10% of people over age 65 will develop Alzheimer’s. After age 85, the risk is nearly 50% for those living past the age of 85. There appears to be a genetic link as well. Research shows those with a parent, brother or sister with Alzheimer’s are more likely to develop the disease.
Sadly, there is still no cure. So, we wait for the scientific miracle that will finally unlock the mystery of this disease for “Rocky” and everyone who suffers. In the meantime, there is only the love and patience of Alzheimer’s caregivers, and organizations such as the George G. Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Centers (there are 3 centers locally) to help, and provide hope for those who suffer and for those who love them.
The Glenner Centers have been meeting the needs of Alzheimer’s patients and their families in San Diego County for nearly 30 years.
Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.