Persons with Alzheimer's, the forgotten two-percenters?
September 24, 2012
In the United States, approximately two percent of the population has Alzheimer’s disease. That’s 6,000,000 people.
Let me put it in perspective for you. The number of persons diagnosed with this dread disease in America alone equals the combined populations of Chicago and Los Angeles. In my home state of Texas, this number represents all the inhabitants of Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and Fort Worth.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg. For every person diagnosed, another three people at least are directly touched. These three persons are family members, friends, caregivers. In other words, Alzheimer’s disease impacts at a minimum something in excess of twenty million Americans.
Take all those cities listed above and add New York City.
It is an enormous epidemic.
Who are the persons with AD?
They are the salt of the earth.
They are the mothers who sat up all night with fever-ridden children and applied cold compresses to our heads, the fathers who coached little league baseball teams, the men and women of the Greatest Generation who fought against tyranny, the teachers who taught us reading and writing and arithmetic.
Alzheimer’s is an equal opportunity killer. It reaches out its tentacles to the poor, the middle class, the rich. It strikes down leaders like Ronald Reagan, entertainers like Glen Campbell, and that vast horde of everyday people whose names are known only to those who love them.
The great majority of its victims are people in their golden years, the persons who reared the post-World War II generation now known as the baby boomers. The BBs have come to know Alzheimer’s up close and personal. They have seen their parents waste away. They have seen the toll AD takes on a spouse, how it zaps the life energy out of a precious caregiver who sits next to a lifetime companion as he or she fades into the night. The BBs have reached into their pockets to pay for in-home care, nursing homes. They have spent what resources they have to provide for their loved ones.
Believe me. I know. I saw it destroy my mother.
Why then does Alzheimer’s remain a hidden disease? Why is it relegated to the back rooms of our collective conscience where it beats against a locked door attempting to make its voice heard?
The answer is simple: Alzheimer’s scares us to death.
September is Alzheimer’s awareness month. it is the time each year when local and national Alzheimer’s organizations organize walks and rallies and try to get the word out, the time when these groups appeal for funds and volunteers. Please take the time to contact The Alzheimer’s Association or the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America or a local group that labors in the field of Alzheimer’s awareness.
Please lend your voices to these precious two-percenters. They have already given themselves for us.
(Stephen Woodfin is the author of The Warrior with Alzheimers: The Battle for Justice.)