Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and worsen over time until they are severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. The majority of people with Alzheimer’s are age 65 and older. However, Alzheimer’s is neither a normal part of aging nor just a disease of old age. Approximately 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 have younger-onset (or early-onset) Alzheimer’s disease. The most notable of these may have been legendary Tennessee Vols women’s basketball coach, Pat Summitt, who was forced to retire in 2012 at age 60 and died four years later.
One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
Other types of dementia occur with Vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and more.
For those reasons and others that the 2nd Annual Shoals Walk to End Alzheimer’s is
is scheduled for Sunday, September 15 in McFarland Park.
Those who have not been a caregiver or a direct family member of an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient have no concept of how arduous the task is. Patients don’t just sit quietly in a corner; anything but.
Questions can be endless and the repetitiveness can be truly dizzying. Patients can be very active and they can find trouble in a few seconds. Early in the life of the disease, we tend to feel badly for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients because we know their memory is leaving them. That’s tougher on loved ones, because patients really don’t know what they have forgotten.
Eventually, eating and drinking can be challenging and grooming and hygiene spotty. And the bath time or sponge bath dramas... We don’t have the space here to discuss the numerous challenges presented by bath time.
Some Alzheimer’s and dementia patients who worked or were responsible for keeping house all their lives have an anxiousness that manifests as the day begins to culminate - a neurological phenomenon known as Sundowning. They subconsciously know that things need to be done during that time of day. They tend to become restless - no longer sure what those responsibilities are.
Repressed memories or things that simply went undiscussed may also play into current thoughts for dementia patients. Circumstances that were troubling during their cogent years can surface as anxiety for them. They may not realize it, but their loved ones may. Some medications may further exacerbate the mind complications.
Further progression of the disease often brings a loss of dignity which can hurt caregivers and loved ones deeply.
Caregivers routinely get to the point of loving a patient like family. Human nature takes over and it becomes more than a job. Family members also maintain a close bond with loyal caregivers, considering them as part of their extended family years after the loved ones have passed and caregivers have moved on. The patient may not remember anybody’s name, but he or she loves each like family.
Some additional facts from the Alzheimer’s Association website, alz.org.
• Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
• More than 16 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.
• These caregivers provided an estimated 18.5 billion hours of care valued at nearly $234 billion.
• Between 2000 and 2017 deaths from heart disease have decreased 9% while deaths from Alzheimer’s have increased 145%.
• Only 16% of seniors receive regular cognitive assessments during routine health check-ups.
• Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost the nation $290 billion this year. By 2050 estimates have these costs at over 1 trillion in 2019 dollars.
• 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. By 2050 this number is projected to rise to nearly 14 million.
• Every 65 seconds someone in the United States develops the disease.
Bottom line, it’s a challenge for us all.
That’s why it is so important to perfect treatments and make headway toward a cure for Alzheimer‘s and the other forms of dementia sooner than later.
We can all help by taking part in or sponsoring someone this Sunday afternoon at the 2nd Annual Shoals Walk to End Alzheimer’s in McFarland Park in Florence.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 15
Registration begins: 12:30pm
The Walk begins: 2:30pm
Contact Jen Manning at 256-880-1575
x 9786 for more information or email
who died from complications related to some form of dementia
Pat Summitt (1952 – 2016)
Coached the Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team to an amazing 8 NCAA championships. She retired in 2012 with a record of 1,098-208, the most coaching wins in college basketball history. With just respectable seasons, 1,400 wins would have been likely had she been able to coach another ten years.
Charlton Heston (1923 – 2008)
The legendary actor’s most famous role was as Moses in The Ten Commandments. left a long legacy of entertainment and social contributions. He also announced publicly that he had Alzheimer’s.
Rita Hayworth (1918 – 1987)
The American film star who rose to prominence in the 1940’s. Her illness was not diagnosed correctly for several years, but became the “face of Alzheimer’s disease” during the 1980’s. The Alzheimer’s Association hosts its Annual Rita Hayworth Gala in her memory.
Norman Rockwell (1894 – 1978)
Rockwell, one of the most famous American painters, became well known for his illustrations on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Interestingly, Rockwell’s paintings are now used sometimes in dementia therapy because of the memories and nostalgia they elicit.
Sugar Ray Robinson (1921–‘89)
Robinson is recognized as one of the best boxers ever, winning 173 fights, and holding the welterweight and middleweight title belts. He died from Alzheimer’s at 67. It’s not currently known whether his head injuries contributed to Alzheimer’s disease.
Glenn Campbell (1936 – 2017)
Legendary multi-Grammy award-winning country singer and guitarist. He and his family bravely revealed his Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 2011. His final “Goodbye Tour” was documented in the award-winning documentary “I’ll Be Me.”
Peter Falk (1927 – 2011)
Initially a stage actor, Falk reached national prominence as a star of the TV series “Columbo.”
He also played the narrator and grandfather to Fred Savage’s character in the legendary film, “The Princess Bride.” His physician reported that late in life he could no longer even remember the character of Columbo.
Robin Williams (1951 – 2014)
Known and adored by many, this amazingly talented Academy Award, Emmy Award, Golden Globe Award, and Grammy Award-winning actor and comedian rose to fame as Mork in the sitcom “Mork & Mindy” and many memorable movie roles.
Williams began to suffer from Lewy body dementia which was believed to be a critical factor that led to his suicide in 2014.
Casey Kasem (1932 – 2014)
Kasem’s radio voice was recognized by tens of millions of Americans with his American Top 40 countdown, a franchise he co-founded that graced US airwaves from 1970-2009. He was also the voice of “Shaggy” in “Scooby-Doo” from 1969-1997, and again from 2002-2009. Kasem was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia in 2007.
Rosa Parks (1913 – 2005)
Known as “the Mother of the Freedom Movement,” after being arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus and beginning the civil rights movement.
Ronald Reagan (1911 – 2004)
Six years after the end of his presidency, Ronald Reagan announced to the American public that he was one of the millions of Americans who will be afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.
Estelle Getty (1923 – 1998)
Best known for her role as Sophia in the “Golden Girls.” She passed away from complications of Lewy body dementia.
Jimmy Stewart (1908 – 1997)
Stewart was recognized for his military career and for his time as an actor. He was best known for his roles in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He remained active until his death in 1997. He was slowed by Alzheimer’s and another illness, which lead to his death.