Imagine looking into the mirror and not recognizing yourself. Or the pain of not being recognized by someone who has known you your entire life. Alzheimer’s disease robs its victims of memories, the precious bits and pieces that make up our lives. It is a disease that is equally as horrifying to those who must bear witness.
HBO, teaming up with the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging, in its 4-part series, “The Alzheimer’s Project,” seeks to bring this mysterious illness out of hiding and into the light of day.
In addition to the physical and emotional toll, Alzheimer’s is expensive, and cannot be ignored when discussing the crushing cost of health care. A poll cited by HBO.com indicates that three out of ten people provide at least some support to an Alzheimer’s patient, whether it be emotional or in providing caregiving. More than one person in ten provides financial support averaging more than $400 per month.
The sad fact is that there are as many as 5.3 million people (including 200,000 under age 65) in the United States with Alzheimer’s, and that Alzheimer’s and dementia triple the health care costs for people over the age of 65.
As the disease progresses, expenses include:
* diagnostic tests and follow up visits
* prescription medications
* personal care supplies
* home health care workers
* adult day services
* assisted living care
* nursing home care
* treating other medical conditions
Medical insurance and Medicare may cover some of these costs, but a huge burden falls to the individual or family. Very often other family members leave paying jobs to provide in-home care for loved ones.
Contrary to popular belief, severe memory loss is not a natural part of aging, but a symptom of serious illness. Alzheimer’s disease destroys brain cells, causing memory loss, behavior change, and loss of body functions. It affects a person’s ability to communicate, think, and take care of himself. Alzheimer’s has been known to strike people as early as their 30s. The Alzheimer’s Association provides an enlightening list of myths and facts that help clear the confusion about Alzheimer’s.
Speaking of former President Reagan’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease, Nancy Reagan is quoted as saying, “Ronnie’s long journey has finally taken him to a distant place where I can no longer reach him. Because of this I’m determined to do whatever I can to save other families from this pain.”
Alzheimer’s touches most families at some point. Visit the Alzheimer’s Association’s Public Policy Forum to find out what you can do to help. Join the Cause, and Write Congress to request increased funding for important Alzheimer’s research.
If you don’t catch the series on HBO, you can watch it here: The Alzheimer’s Project.
Source: Alzheimer’s Association
Read more: health policy
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