In 1983, President Ronald Reagan designated November as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, with the goal of making the general public more aware of the disease and to bring new light to potential care options for those affected. At the time of designation, there were less than 2 million people afflicted with the disease; there are now nearly 6 million.
Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging, but rather a devastating neurodegenerative disease that weakens the memory and other cognitive and emotional functions. It is the most common type of dementia, making up 60-80% of all dementia cases, Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
A progressive disease, Alzheimer’s 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-onset 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 judgment
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Mood and personality changes
The Alzheimer’s Association is working to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. 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.