Saturday, September 26, 2009

World Alzheimer's Day

Every 70 seconds someone crosses over the starting line of Alzheimer’s Disease and begins to walk the road of dementia. This statistic comes from the Alzheimer’s Association and startled me when I heard this at my city’s 20th annual Memory Walk last weekend. The Memory Walk is the Association’s largest fund raiser each year and funds their education, support, and research.

Photo ©Thomas H. Fickas Jr

Having walked this road with my own family I have been aware for the last few years of the growing prevalence of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Still, when I think about the fact that every 70 seconds someone else begins the journey I am saddened. That’s over 1200 people a day. The problem with this statistic is that it doesn’t begin to show the extent of people affected. For each one of those 1200 people there are family members and friends who also travel the road. It is a growing problem and will continue to grow as our population ages.

Alzheimer's Disease International has released their 2009 World Alzheimer's Report. The research indicates that in 2010 there will be an estimated 35 million people around the world with any form of dementia. Again, this doesn’t include the number of people who will deal with the effects of knowing someone with dementia. This number includes all forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s Disease is the leading cause of dementia followed by Lewy Body Dementia as the second. There are many other forms of dementia and each form of dementia has its own unique symptoms, but they all devastate a person’s memory functions.

I have not had a chance to fully review the 24 page executive summary of the report, but what I have read just reaffirms my commitment to fighting this horrible disease. The numbers show that dementia is not a small problem, but rather one that will continue to grow and touch more people unless we do something now to staunch the progression. Following are the recommendations made by the authors of the report:

1. The World Health Organization (WHO) should declare dementia a world health priority.

2. National governments should declare dementia a health priority and develop national strategies to provide services and support for people with dementia and their families.

3. Low and medium income countries should create dementia strategies based first on enhancing primary healthcare and other community services.

4. High income countries should develop national dementia action plans with designated resource allocations.

5. Develop services that reflect the progressive nature of dementia.

6. Distribute services with the core principle of maximizing coverage and ensuring equity of access, to benefit people with dementia regardless of age, gender, wealth, disability, and rural or urban residence.

7. Create collaboration between governments, people with dementia, their carers (caregivers) and their Alzheimer associations, and other relevant Non-Governmental Organizations and professional healthcare bodies.

8. More research needs to be funded and conducted into the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, pharmacological and psychosocial treatments, the prevalence and impact of dementia, and the prevention of dementia.

Dementia is a world problem that has the potential to affect us all. Reading the above recommendations can be overwhelming. What can one person do? One person can’t solve the problem, but your contributions don’t stand alone. Each person can make a small difference and those differences can make huge changes. To find out more visit the Alzheimer's website. Together we can move this journey closer to the finish line.

Photo ©Thomas H. Fickas Jr

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