While Alzheimer’s disease or AD has no cure therefore its progression is inevitable, too many of our elders suffering from this debilitating disease do not receive the treatment they need. Many with Alzheimer’s disease are treated like second class citizens and as a society it is our ethical responsibility to take care of them to the best of our ability. It is a common misconception that anyone with Alzheimer’s cannot function, this is simply not true. Getting those who are still in the infancy stages of the disease involved in stimulating activity is shown to be one of the best ways to halt its progression, and under proper care they can still live a comfortable and productive life.
The single harshest fact to come to terms with for me while doing my research was just how many of our elders are treated poorly and to the extent it’s done. Although not throughly researched it is estimated in the year 2015 over 70,000 elderly parents were abandoned by their family members. This trend has even picked up its own name, “Granny Dumping”, and was unheard of until around 15 years ago.
Alzheimer’s or AD is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. While AD is now currently gaining more recognition in the medical field we often times we do not see underlying long-term effects AD has on families and society as a whole. By exposing these ugly truths we can gain some support from formerly unaware bystanders. It is not only the disease carrier who is affected by AD, it is the entire familie’s disease. More than 40% of family caregivers report that the emotional stress of their role is high or very high. Imagine the person who raised you from a baby, taught you everything you know, gave you more than anyone now unable to communicate or even feed themselves. That is the ugly truth that plagues more than 15 million Americans on a day to day basis. Alzheimers is a truly despicable disease that takes the very thing that makes us who we are and distorts it until theres nothing left, just a shell of who we once were.
This progressive and incurable disease, like most diseases, comes in varying stages ranging from one to seven in the medical world. During stage one, Alzheimer’s disease is not detectable and no memory problems or other symptoms of dementia are evident. Next comes stage two where the senior may notice minor memory problems or lose things around the house, although not to the point where the memory loss can easily be distinguished from normal age related memory loss. The person will still do well on memory tests and the disease is unlikely to be detected by physicians or loved ones. After that the friends and family members of the senior may begin to notice memory and cognitive problems. After further investigation and testing physicians will recognize a deficiency in memory skills and cognitive functions, and family members will be able to spot it right away. Some signs of this stage are delayed communications, having trouble remembering new acquaintances, and they may find it hard to plan/organize. Stage 4 is where the disease really begins to affect day to day tasks, things such as managing finances and keeping track of valuables become too difficult for them. In stage 5 they become significantly more dependent upon assistance from others, its at this stage that family members realize just how physically and emotionally draining the constant care is on everyone involved. The next two stages, stages 6 and 7, are the most debilitating of the seven stages where the victim basically becomes numb to the world unable to express the simplest emotion. Blank stares into nothing and not being able to control bowels are a few of the symptoms of the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease. At this point in the diseases progression the patient is nearing the end of their life, since the disease is terminal no one has ever survived the tenacity this disease possesses.
Since scientists and doctors have not found the exact cause of AD it is almost impossible to obtain a cure for it. Further research needs to be conducted to evaluate the cause, develop predictors to catch disease in its early stages, and find variables that may play an influential role in the pace the disease accelerates at. This is easier said than done the brain is the single most complicated organ in the human body, it controls everything from feeling the heat of a fire to storing memories from events that happened decades ago.The brain is the most complex organ in a vertebrate’s body. In a typical human, the cere-bral cortex (the largest part) is estimated to contain 15–33 billion neurons, each connected by synapses to several thousand other neurons. No one quite knows how information is encoded in the brain from cell to cell or even if information is encoded differently in different sections of the brain. What this means is we still have years and years of research before we get anywhere near close to finding a cure for this disease. It is not as simple as a vaccination and has nothing to do with bacteria or antibodies. To be truly proactive in reducing the impact the disease has on us we need to look for answers in the here and now, not 20 years from now. The mind is comparable to a tool, and just like any tool it can become dull or rusted, keeping our minds sharp is the quickest and most cost effective method of beating Alzheimer’s. This can be achieved by simple day to day things that some older people do not always keep up with. Simply having a conversation with someone can help keep your wits about you and as common as this may sound some older people do not have that luxury. Cooped up in their house all day or left in a nursing home to wither is the norm for a great number of our elders, they are not treated like the people they are anymore and instead are ignored and ridiculed. It is not clear where or when this mentality of complete apathy for our elders occurred but surely these are not the morals we wish to teach our children less we endure the same fate. There needs to be a government regulated clinic where people of a certain age can retreat if the means are not there for them in their current situation. A place where they can be cared for and talked to like the human beings they are, this would not only supply jobs to thousands of young adults but also create a better environment for everyone to live. No one wants to see an 80 year old abandoned at an emergency room with no place to turn. We can beat this stigma that the elderly have no value, it is beginning to take hold in our younger generation and needs to be eradicated now.
Every patient diagnosed with Alzheimer’s has died or has been pronounced terminally ill, their life span post diagnosis is estimated between 8 to 10 years. Imagine knowing that eventually everything including family members, friends, and even a significant other will all be forgotten. Lost in the abyss that is the human mind, you lose all sense of self and to the outside world you are near equivalent to a zombie. Unable to communicate with anyone it is unknown if anything is still left of the person that once dwelled with-in the physical body that is still alive. While Alzheimer’s has no current cure that does not justify its victims to be abandoned and left for dead, there are many options to be explored in helping them from digressing further.
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