Every September 21 for the past 7 years we have marked World Alzheimer’s Day.
The campaign hopes to further raise awareness of a disease that has affected millions worldwide and impacted families who face the daily challenges it causes.
Alzheimer’s is one type of dementia, but the most common. Dementia, a neurodegenerative disease, impairs cognitive function, ultimately impacting functional abilities.
It is irreversible, incurable, and has no effective treatment. Researchers believe the root of the disease is a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors.
Hallmarks of the disease include:
- Memory loss
- Language difficulty
- Poor executive (brain) function
- Behavioral symptoms including delusions, agitation and depression
- Decline in functional status – inability to complete self-care and activities of daily living such as eating, toileting and grooming
Eventually the person afflicted with dementia will lose the ability to remain independent and care for themselves. Therefore, caregivers will be a necessity.
Partners in Alzheimer’s Care
While it is vitally important that family caregivers provide much needed care to persons with dementia, the research and health communities must also partner together to ensure that people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers are supported.
Here are a few ways that partners are joining the fight:
- Healthy Brain Initiative — a multifaceted approach to cognitive health. Their Road Map prepares all communities to act quickly and strategically by stimulating changes in policies, systems, and environment. They have a Complete Care Plan that can be used to help caregivers.
- National Institute on Aging Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Education and Referral Center (ADEAR) — Created by Congress in 1990 to “compile, archive, and disseminate information concerning Alzheimer’s disease” for health professionals, people with AD and their families, and the public.
- Alzheimer’s Association — their stated mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and, to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.
- Alzheimer’s Foundation of America — provides education and support to individuals and family caregivers living with Alzheimer’s disease; funds research
- Research — around the globe researchers are studying the cause, potential treatments, and prevention strategies for dementia. It is largely funded via public sources, but many private foundations, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and individual donors are adding to the funds being used to learn more. Sharing data will help advance our knowledge. Participating in clinical trials will also help researchers learn more hopefully for effective treatments and an eventual cure.
There are of course, many agencies, organizations and universities that are active in not just researching the disease, but supporting caregivers with education, training and resources. They are too numerous to mention but their work is heralded.
Hopefully, caregivers are participating in education and benefiting from support services in their local communities.
Learning more about dementia, understanding its trajectory and receiving emotional support from others will help caregivers on their journey.