I just want to say a big ‘thank you’ for the very favorable response with the last two articles on Awakened by Alzheimer’s. Some of you have expressed your roller coaster emotions in dealing with this atrocity and living with the aftermath of losing a loved one.
My advice to a number of people who spoke with me was to try and understand something of the medical and scientific explanations of the disease. We sometimes use Alzheimer’s and Dementia interchangeably when trying to describe the mental, physical and emotional conditions of a loved one but there is a difference in the two.
Dementia is a general term for a general decline in the mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life—memory loss is an example. Alzheimer’s is a type of Dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior.
Alzheimer’s is sometimes referred to as ‘brain changes’ and is now being described as an epidemic. There are real facts to substantiate the epidemic spread of the disease and thus billions of dollars are being spent in research while other billions are being spent to control and treat the disease.
For instance, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the US with 5.2 million Americans living with the disease. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another Dementia. Every 68 seconds someone in the US will develop Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is fatal and is the only cause of death that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed down, though some medical progress is being recognized and miraculous breakthroughs are imminent.
In 2012, 15.4 million caregivers provided more than 17.5 billion hours of unpaid care valued at $216 billion. It is estimated that in 2013 Alzheimer’s will cost the US $203 billion and will explode to $1.3 trillion by 2050.
While it is difficult for us to get our heads wrapped around some of the facts and figures relative to Alzheimer’s, the reality is that the disease is real and becomes very personal when it affects a loved one or a very close friend.
When my family had to face the reality of Alzheimer’s and the deterioration it would bring to our Mom we realized that we must gain strength from each other and then use our combined strength to help, assist, encourage and care for Mom in every way possible.
My present reflections have awakened in my spirit some positive memories and the realization that I am a very blessed individual. I am blessed to have been raised in a family of fifteen children. I am also blessed to have had a Mom and Dad who taught that family values, Christian principles and Biblical truth could bring us through the most difficult situations and challenges of life.
When I reflect and recall that she couldn’t remember our name or verbally express her love, I am satisfied to know that we never missed an opportunity to tell Mom of our love for her—reach out to an immediate family member right now and tell them how much you love and appreciate them for the person they are. Her Alzheimer’s awakened in my spirit fond memories that words will never be able to describe and will be forever etched in my memory. In the privacy of our own individual lives we often weep when we remember a very fragile Mom who was once so strong and proud and active and loving and kind.
When our Mom finally passed away there were many public expressions of love spoken through words of kindness, flowers, cards, warm hugs and embraces and a whole lot of food. The church was filled with people that day and nobody, absolutely nobody could know nor could they fully understand what was being experienced by fourteen living children as eight of her sons bore the casket from the church to the cemetry. Yes, we wept! Our hearts were broken! But we were proud of an awesome Mom that meant so much to fifteen children and a loving husband.
I trust that the last three articles might help or assist some reader who might be dealing with this dreaded disease either through a family member or a close friend. Whatever the situation you might be facing I want you to remember the Bible verse: “Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4) Remember, the sun is always shining!