In 1994, when President Ronald Reagan openly released to the world that he had Alzheimer’s disease, many were in shock. After former President Reagan died in 2004, there was ongoing controversy about his health. Documentation states that during his first term as president, he showed early signs of dementia. Then in August 2002, Charlton Heston announced he had Alzheimer’s and when he died, his family released a solemn statement about his passing, but never mentioned the cause of his death. Nancy Reagan was among those who attended Charlton Heston’s funeral. Both men were hugely respected and admired; larger than life, only to succumb to this terminal quieting.
What is Alzheimer’s? In simple ‘reality’ terms, it is a disease that shows no mercy as it robs a person of all they were as it plagues horrific memory loss on its victim, only then to paralyze them where they have no ability to function (routinely) within their day-to-day life. Bit by bit, this disease swallows one up leaving a person hollowed – lifeless – bedridden. All dignity is lost.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, and by the year 2050, this fast and growing debilitating disease will fatally kill 11 to 16 million people. From that estimate, and according to research projections, 10 million baby boomers will die from a form of Alzheimer’s. It is a grim prognosis.
Living with a parent or loved one that has this disease makes it more even more real, chilling and numbing. Does heredity play a part on who gets Alzheimer’s? Research remains ongoing, and as of today – new drugs are available to slow down the course of Alzheimer’s but there is no cure. Early testing is the key; it will provide an individual results if he or she will develop Alzheimer’s, thus early treatment.
So, looking from the outside in, what are we to do? Heed the signs.
There are ten:
Memory loss that interferes with one’s daily life – Planning activities or problem solving (following recipes) – Things that were once familiar such chores at home, work, or a simple game of Bingo, forgotten – Keeping track of time and place, wandering – Visual changes and not recognizing oneself – Speaking (trouble conversing) and writing (word choice) – Misplacing articles (jewelry/keys/clothing) and the inability to retrace one’s steps to find them – Hoarding money and/or mismanaging money and personal grooming stops – Withdrawal from society or family – Mood and personality changes.
Even if former President Reagan did indeed have early signs of dementia during his first term, who would have known? The natural aging process shows similar signs; however, if you, a loved one or friend demonstrates any of the ten warning signs above do not hesitate – call for an appointment. Your doctor is best suited to make any and all determinations. Early detection and treatment is helpful and truly essential.