Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Cuckoo's Nest: Time To Pay Attention

As I've mentioned before, many of the people here in the Cuckoo's Nest suffer from varying degrees and various kinds of dementia.  Ironically, five years ago I feared that I would be one of them.  Both my father and my older brother died of complications of this Alzheimer's, and, after testing, I showed some very, very early signs of continuing the family tradition.

I shouldn't have worried.  So far, I'm still in pretty good shape cognitively, although occasionally I can't remember a word when I'm speaking or writing.  At this point, I attribute that to having a full hard disc and accessing some data just takes longer than it used to.  My problems are primarily physical, due mainly to smoking for over 50 years.  I'm lucky.  I get to enjoy the here-and-now of whatever time I have left.

Some of my fellow residents and their families are not so lucky, and it's heartbreaking in all sorts of ways.  One of my favorites obviously was a brilliant man and on good days that brilliance shines through.  Unfortunately, however, those days are fewer with longer spaces between them.  And he knows that he's slipping deeper into the dementia.  That's hard on him and it's hard to watch.

I was heartened to see the Los Angeles Times editorial board address this issue on March 19, 2014:

A recent study in the journal Neurology estimated that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's figure on deaths attributable to Alzheimer's in 2010 — 83,494 in the U.S. — is a fraction of the true number, which it estimated at more than 500,000. Officials at the CDC admit that the agency's number is significantly low.

Just as alarming is this: A study by researchers at Rand Corp. and other institutions calculated that the direct cost of care for people with Alzheimer's and other dementia in 2010 was $109 billion. In comparison, healthcare costs for people with heart disease was $102 billion; for people with cancer, it was $77 billion. Yet cancer research will be allocated an estimated $5.4 billion this year in federal funds, and heart disease will get $1.2 billion — while research on Alzheimer's and other dementias comes in at only a fraction of that, at $666 million.

It's time to substantially increase that budget.   [Emphasis added]

Amen! to that.

Do me a favor and drop a note to your congress critters and the president requesting a sizeable increase in the allocation of funds for Alzheimer's research.  We can't afford not to.

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Blogger Jane Gagle-Bennett said...

My father and his mother had vascular dementia; my mother was very sharp until she died@97, except for UTI related periods of what can best be described as weirdness. All the hospice nurses were alert to this,and I learned to spot the early symptoms so her last 6 months were difficult but her "faculties were intact" when she died.So much of this is education, getting to caregivers and families early w/ good information ... and enlisting them in the effort to get more funds allocated for research.

Me, I'm an only child,closing in on 67, but have some good "logical" family around. But I worry about keeping my faculties intact. It's good to hear your story.

8:18 PM  

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