I've been thinking a lot about my dad this week. Of course, Sunday is father's day--and my dad was a wonderful man who passed away last year from complications of Alzheimer's disease.
I hope you never have to experience it with your loved ones but a new health report suggests more people will.
A new forecast from Johns Hopkins University concludes the number of people affected by Alzheimer's disease worldwide will quadruple by 2050. We're talking more than 100 million people. One of the researchers said if we can make even modest advances in preventing Alzheimer's disease, or delay its progression, we could have a huge impact on public health.
To give patients a fighting chance-- now or in the future-- you have to recognize the symptoms, which can be difficult-- especially early on. Looking back, my dad showed signs of Alzheimer's years before his official diagnosis. Small things... things we mistakenly chalked up to normal aging and forgetfulness.
My definition of "normal" changed one December afternoon a few years back when my parents and I went Christmas shopping at the mall. My mom and I wanted to buy a few things for my dad, so we split up. We went one way and he went the other with the understanding that we'd meet up at noon for lunch. Noon came and went and my dad didn’t show-up. He was never particularly punctual but he was extremely gregarious with a great sense of humor so we figured he'd found someone to talk to and was having a laugh. However, after 30 minutes or so I set out to look for him but before I got too far, he came strolling by.
I hustled over to intercept him asking, "Where have you been? You were supposed to meet us at noon!" His response-- "You never told me to meet you at noon." And he was adamant. He genuinely had no idea what I was talking about. As I would discover later, forgetting recently learned information is one of the most common early signs of dementia.
Had Alzheimer's disease been on our radar, had we talked to a doctor right away, had my father started medication as soon as possible... maybe we could have postponed the inevitable—at least a little while longer. Maybe.
Please don't wait to get information about Alzheimer's disease. If you notice changes in someone you love, ask a doctor. Ask the Alzheimer’s Association. There are a myriad of resources to help you figure out what's normal and what's not. In the best scenario, Alzheimer's won’t be the diagnosis and you'll have peace of mind. If it is, knowledge is power—the power to be a proactive part of health care decisions that could improve the quality of your loved one's life.
My dad was blessed with a long life. My family and I celebrated his 90th birthday the month before he died. He didn't remember a lot of things--but he did remember us.
And we'll always remember him.
To contact the Alzheimer's Association-- Oregon chapter call
1-800-733-0402 or visit their website www.alz.org