Designated in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan, November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. At the time of designation, there were less than 2 million people afflicted with the disease; there are now more than 5 million. Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that leads to memory, thinking, and behavior problems. It is the most common type of dementia, making up 60-80% of all cases, and is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that gets worse over time until the person is no longer able to manage daily tasks. The disease typically occurs in people over the age of 65, however thousands have been diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s that occurs prior to the age of 65. While there currently is not a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, there are treatments available that slow the progression of the disease.
A goal of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month is to educate the public about the symptoms of the disease, so that people can identify a loved one who may be developing it. Symptoms include:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty planning or solving problems
- Confusion with time or place
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Misplacing things, and inability to retrace steps
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Decreased or poor judgement
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Mood and personality changes
Leading up to Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in November, organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association organize “memory walks” to raise awareness about the disease, as well as to raise money for research. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America also promotes its National Memory Screening Program, which is available throughout the country and provides confidential memory screenings to anyone who is interested.
During the month of November and all throughout the year, being aware of the signs of Alzheimer’s disease and joining in the fight against it is something we all can do.