20 years ago, Alzheimer's was an inevitable fear looming in the minds of aging adults reaching their 60s. Everyone knew about it, was afraid for it. People in their late 50s forgot their keys or forgot someone's name that they just met and immediately thought they had Alzheimer's. People with parents or close relatives with the disease thought they were sure to be doomed to have the inevitable disease included in their destiny. The article I choose this week to write about focuses on the benefits of diagnosing Alzheimer's early, but today I also want to talk about my own feelings on Alzheimer's development.
The article, "Early Diagnoses Lets Patients Look Alzheimer's Square In the Face", written by Alexi Friedman, makes a strong point that people that are diagnosed early enough and are put on immediate medications, have a much better chance of slowing down the disease. She brings up a member of her community who was 72 years old and was having difficulty remembering things. Upon learning she definitely had the degenerative disease, she made proactive decisions to join a safe housing structure with support group meetings, make "to-do" lists, and get on the right medications (Aricept or Namenda). Even nursing home and care centers that specialize in Alzheimer's care are noticing the difference, and are expected to start changing their plan of care within the coming 20 years. Quote from vice president of the Alzheimer's Association of NJ, "This type of self advocacy by patients was virtually unheard of 20 years ago, when caregivers were the ones to reach out for information and support. But as more people are diagnosed earlier, they [patients] are increasingly taking control of their own futures and, by doing so, forcing traditional Alzheimer's organizations to rethink their missions." I think its great that these patients are choosing to take control. They want to remain part of their lives and the decision making process. Years ago, all we, and the patients suffering and their caregivers did was hope that the unknown researchers were hopefully making progress on the cure somewhere out there. We sat back and watch the killer disease rip through the brain and create multiple broken hearts. But now the patient can slow it down. Multiple video games even are being released purposefully directed at the aging adults. These games include mind games such as word puzzles, anagrams, and other puzzles that "make you think".
The other topic I wanted to bring up was something I had a good conversation with my boyfriend about. We got started first when I had mentioned that people were living to be so old nowadays, and how it was so strange to think about back thousands of years ago, my age right now (21) maybe being one of the "elders". How strange is that? I had asked him, how could it be that over the thousands of generations, how in time did it get to be that nowadays a 15-25 year old is seen as somewhat immature, that we are still "so young". If we have a baby, we are looked down upon for it. We shouldn't be married so young…but back then, 12-20 year olds were forced to have babies. They were married at 12. If they were lucky to even make it to 25-30 they were a town "elder"…even though they probably looked like I do right now (body type wise). Did they even know what we today call an "old" person looked like? What happened to a human as it got older? Were there some breakthroughs that made it past 60? He replied with the fact and very interesting thought that maybe human beings aren't and never were supposed to get old…Maybe that was never intended and we are making a mistake by extending our lives so much. Maybe Alzheimer's was never supposed to happen, and it is not a disease per say but a natural reaction to the brain fighting old age? If we all lived long enough and died from no other cause, I'm sure we all would eventually get it. He made the point that the body fights getting older, with arthritis, and heart attacks, etc. Maybe God had never intended for us to live this long (on average) and the fact that we are actually intentionally prolonging life is a huge mistake. I take the stand personally on letting death happen naturally. Sure, It is tragic when someone dies prematurely in a car accident or murder when they were otherwise healthy. Should we fight to keep them alive, if they have a chance? Yes, In most cases. But should we give donor implants and artificial limbs to people above the age of 70 just so they can stay alive artificially? We wonder why our planet is getting so crowded…We wonder why and not ever before we are experiencing Earth's fight back on us for being too harmful to the environment. We were never supposed to be here this long, and we got too smart to figure out how to artificially let us stay here longer.
So should they keep fighting for an Alzheimer's cure? Yes. Why? Because who wants to spend the last 10-30 years of their life in a nursing home or assisted living or even worse stuck in bed, or not knowing who their children are or where they are? Who wants to spend 10-30 years with a spouse or parent that doesn't know who you are? Who would ever want the feeling of not remembering anything or being told they weren't allowed to drive? Although I believe that we shouldn't artificially prolong life, curing Alzheimer's isn't prolonging life. It's making life more enjoyable.
So long readers, til next time…
~A writer in a Nurses Body