November is Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness month, a great time to educate and spread awareness of the disease. There is much work to be done, however, both in terms of research, education, and finding a cure as well as improving our approach to diagnosis and treatment.
Misconceptions about Alzheimer’s continue to persist. Only through a consistent flow of accurate information and insights can we begin to dispel them.
That is why facts matter. Here are just a few from The Alzheimer’s Association:
- 55 million people worldwide are living with Alzheimer’s as well as other dementias.
- Alzheimer’s and other dementias kill more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
- About 1 in 9 people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s.
- By 2050 it is estimated that the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s may grow to 12.7 million barring the development of a medical breakthrough.
- Only 4 in 10 Americans would talk to their doctor right away when experiencing early memory loss.
And here is another fact that cannot be emphasized enough:
Brain cancer is a disease of the brain. So is Alzheimer’s. Yet they are treated very differently.
Tam Cummings, PhD, or “Dr. Tam” as she is called, is an author and licensed expert in dementia, traveling throughout the U.S. conducting seminars and workshops. She also conducts dementia training for caregivers and families. Dr. Tam often draws comparisons between Alzheimer’s and other diseases. For instance, when an individual is diagnosed with brain cancer, it usually is preceded by symptoms that are brought to the attention of their physician, who immediately prescribes a battery of tests. Once the diagnosis is made, the individual is given access to specialists and a treatment plan is begun. Furthermore, they are surrounded by a supportive community.
However, when an individual is diagnosed with a brain disease, such as Alzheimer’s, they are too often met with a veil of confusion and left to sort it out on their own. Yet, as Dr. Tam notes, they deserve the same level of attention and support that comes with other brain diseases.
That veil of misinformation and misconception impacts society as well. Cancer is clearly a disease that the person has no control over. That clarity is too often missing with dementia. This leads to misconceptions, which include blaming the victim, or believing it is a behavioral issue or even a weakness.
Awareness and education is the first step to changing how we deal with Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Tam and other leaders are dedicated to educating everyone, including caregivers, on the facts about dementia and working to change the way we approach the disease and relate to individuals living with it.
Our Anthem Memory Care communities are working with Dr. Tam to keep our own staff up to date and informed as well as partnering with organizations that foster a more integrated approach to the disease.
How can you help increase awareness as well as join the fight to find a cure?
Here are a few ways:
- Ensure that you are doing all to optimize your own brain health as well as that of your family members. Look into healthy diets, meditation, exercise and eliminating unhealthy habits.
- Lean in to lectures and webinars conducted by experts to get informed and stay informed. Dr. Tam has a wealth of information on her website, which you can access here.
- You can attend an Anthem Memory Care webinar featuring Dr. Tam on the second Wednesday of each month. Learn more by contacting any of our communities.
- Encourage those around you not to delay being evaluated for dementia when early signs emerge. Studies show that early treatment can help delay the progression of Alzheimer’s.
- Join events in your community to spread awareness and raise funds for research in the fight against dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association has a website with links to nationwide local chapters which you can access here.
Alzheimer’s is a disease of the brain and deserves to be treated with as much vigilance and support as any other brain disease. Together, through better research, education, assessments, training, and treatments we can make a big difference in how we approach this deadly disease and, most importantly, in the lives of millions of individuals living with Alzheimer’s.