November: National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Alzheimer’s is not just memory loss, and it doesn’t just affect elderly people. Over six million people in America suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and this number is projected to grow to 13 million in 30 years. 

Despite these alarming numbers, there is still no cure. November is dedicated to Alzheimer’s awareness, as well as honoring the loved ones who have passed from this disease. 

Woodgrove English teacher Lea Longerbeam shares her personal story about dealing with a loved one who passed away from a form of Alzheimer’s. 

She elaborates on the difficult emotions and feelings she experienced after her mother was diagnosed, “It’s like she was trapped in a nightmare she couldn’t escape, and as a family member you can’t help them. The hardest part is you have to grieve the person twice, you have to say goodbye twice.” 

As Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease, many Alzheimer’s patients will eventually need in-home or facility care. More than 11 million people in the United States provide unpaid care for someone with Alzheimer’s. Providing care for someone with dementia is challenging both physically and mentally. It is commonly referred to as a “disease of the family” as it can cause exhaustion and even depression in caregivers and loved ones. 

Woodgrove Special Education teacher Crystal Gallahan worked with dementia patients as a certified nursing assistant after graduating high school. She describes the physical challenges she faced, like frequently getting hit by her patients. Gallahan doesn’t hold this against them though saying, “You have to be patient, it’s not their fault.” 

Scientists are still searching for a cure for Alzheimer’s as the human brain is extremely complex and Alzheimer’s research is underfunded. However, there are organizations working towards a cure such as the National Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. The National Alzheimer’s Association hosts an annual “Walk To End Alzheimer’s” to raise money and awareness. Donations and participation in charity events are actions that can be taken to tackle this tragic disease. 

Alzheimer’s Association Logo. (Provided by Creative Commons.)