At 41, I want to believe I have many fruitful years ahead of me and plenty of life experiences to look forward to. Yet, after being touched by Alzheimer’s, I realize I can’t afford to stand on the sidelines as this disease may one day be in my future. Diagnosed at 54, my mom currently suffers from younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease. To watch my dedicated, loving mother slip away, one day at a time, has taken a significant emotional and financial toll on my family. To have your own mother not able to recognize you is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of the aging process. This disease is a thief of the worst kind: Robbing memories of your own children. Wiping out the loving remembrances shared over a lifetime of marriage. Making you feel lost in your daily surroundings. For the more than 5.2 million Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s disease — and for their families — this is reality.
As World Alzheimer’s Day approaches on Sept. 21, it is a somber reminder that we must do more to find an answer to this disease that steals life from our mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers and impacts more than 15 million caregivers in the United States. If we don’t make this fight a priority, it is conceivable that one day, virtually everyone will be damaged in some way by Alzheimer’s.