‘Tis the Season to enjoy the holidays, but there is no sugar-coating the fact that Alzheimer’s is the Grinch that slowly steals your mind.
“Alzheimer’s is not just ‘a senior moment.’ It is a serious disease that can be prevented in many cases and treated if caught early enough.”
If you’ve had a loved one in your family with the disease or who is 65+, then you know what to fear. Those first early signs that you may be having memory problems, whether real or not, really gnaw at you. Check out the signs here.
These memory lapses are most often picked up by family members or friends who haven’t visited recently. Why is that? It’s because your wife or husband is filling in the lost words or pointing out the missed route that you’ve driven home on for years. Your adult kids may suppress their concerns and play the wait-and-see game. But grandkids, in town and visiting, are quick to call it out.
However, Alzheimer’s isn’t solely about memory — it’s the sixth-leading cause of death in America. So, it’s time to talk ALZ.
We all need a different mindset about Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Unlike a decade ago when there was no hope and no cure, today, the focus is on prevention and early diagnosis. According to the World Health Organization, you can lower your risk of the disease by up to 40% with healthy lifestyle changes, like getting exercise and eating a healthy diet.
That means all of us should track our cognitive health, just as we do our cholesterol levels or blood pressure. It means appreciating that our brain operates as the hard drive for the rest of our body parts, and that we all need to be smart and protect the health of that connectivity. And know that it’s never too late to get started on keeping healthy.
Even far more exciting, for the first time ever, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a medication that slows the progression of Alzheimer’s and there are more treatments in the pipeline. Clinicians, reluctant to diagnose because they couldn’t effectively treat the disease in the past, need a refresher course, and those of us hiding out need to know that the window of opportunity to slow the disease’s progression is earlier, not later.
But what good are triumphant treatments with uncertain access or a lack of equity? Kudos to the advocacy community, who joined UsAgainstAlzheimer’s in pushing Medicare to agree to either pay for or consider a new class of FDA-approved AD treatments.
For the first time ever, the FDA has also approved a medication that helps with the type of agitation common in up to 40-60% of people with AD that often makes it impossible to keep a loved one at home. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has also announced a pilot project, called the GUIDE Model, targeted at improving the overall quality of care for people living with dementia and at reducing strain on their caregivers.
So, if you’re 50 or older, stop thinking you’re ageless, because Alzheimer’s starts in the brain 20 years before symptoms first appear. If you’re 65+ and anxious about your memory, get tested or sign up for a generational study or clinical trial. And if you know someone who has just been diagnosed, be supportive and please don’t forget the health of the caregiver matters, too.
Alzheimer’s is not just “a senior moment.” It is a serious disease that can be prevented in many cases and treated if caught early enough. So, let’s start talking about it. Even better, let’s all commit to making 2024 a year of action to power up for brain health.