Author’s note: I know this isn’t my usual content, and it is for a class assignment, but it’s an issue that hits close to home for me, and unfortunately I assume it hits close to home for a lot of you too.
If there are two diseases that have seized the public consciousness it’s cancer, and Alzheimer’s. According to the Alzheimer’s Association more than 5 million Americans live with the disease, a third of senior citizens will die with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, and it kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer. It’s not slowing down either. As the Baby Boomers continue to age the prevalence of the disease will increase, which means we are running out of time to stop the spread of the disease before it becomes nearly ubiquitous.
It’s easy to talk about a disease when it’s depersonalized, and it’s even easier to forget that when you’re talking about millions of people that you’re talking about real human beings.
These are the Hornbecks (Paul on the right and Sarah on the left). The Hornbecks live in Kentucky. Paul was an Army engineer and analyst, and Sarah was a school administrator.
At the age of 55, Paul was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. “I was kind of at the height of my career. And then this dreadful diagnosis came. And it just wiped out every plan I had for my career.” As the disease progressed it also affected Sarah’s life when she had to leave her job 18 months ago to take care of Paul. “Got to the point where it just wasn’t safe for him to stay alone, just because of memory and decision-making. You know, he might leave the stove on. He might decide that there was a tree branch bothering him and he should get out the chainsaw.”
Like with other serious medical issues, in America a diagnosis like this can mean financial catastrophe. After sending their three children through college, the Hornbecks still had debt when the diagnosis came. “I mean, we had to sell basically everything but my wife’s car and an old truck that I kept to drive around here on the farm.” The disease will not stop progressing, and as a result Paul will have to be placed into a facility with full-time care. “When he has to go into full-time care, it will require us to pay all of our savings, which will leave me at the poverty level basically.”
For people like the Hornbecks, the time for prevention has passed, but there is still a chance for them to have the disease mitigated if not cured, and there are others out there that would benefit from continued, and improved, research funding.
People listen to people they recognize, so Seth Rogen went before the Senate to give a statement about Alzheimer’s research.
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Although progress is always being made on fighting and preventing Alzheimer’s, it’s still one of the top ten leading causes of death in the United States. As of 2016, $236 billion is being spent to cope with this disease and by 2050 it’s expected to increase to $1 trillion.
That’s not only a strain on those afflicted with the disease and their family members, that’s a strain on the entire nation since about 68% is covered by Medicare and Medicaid.
A world without Alzheimer’s is possible, but it requires further research funding to learn how to prevent, and perhaps ultimately find a cure. If you want further information you can go to the Alzheimer’s Association website and if you want to donate to funding you can do that there too.