Alzheimer's Untangled: An Overview
My grandmother battled Alzheimer's for eight years. She lost memories, her personality, precious time and eventually, she forgot how to perform basic life skills and bodily functions. I knew something was wrong when she forgot my name and thought her husband of 50+ years was a stranger. Alzheimer's boggles the minds of doctors and ever since my grandmother's diagnosis, it became my goal to champion this cause.
Dementia is a general term that describes brain disease symptoms. Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that can cause problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Despite common belief, this is not a normal part of aging and according to the Alzheimer's Association, 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's. As the disease progresses some may lose the ability to hold conversations and even function on their own.
Aducanumab, an Alzheimer's treatment, was approved by the FDA on June 7, 2021. A message from Alzheimer's Association CEO, Harry Johns:
"While certainly not a cure, this is the first-ever FDA-approved treatment for the underlying biology of Alzheimer’s, not just the symptoms. Slowing progression for those with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) due to Alzheimer’s disease or Alzheimer’s dementia in its earliest stage offers the potential for more precious time for diagnosed individuals and their loved ones."
I believe you can also slow down the progression of the disease by investing in your brain health. Exercise, eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep and staying mentally active by learning a new language or skill is crucial.
A beating heart in the womb is our first introduction to rhythm and we are surrounded by music ever since. Songs are often associated with special moments in our lives and this can be life changing for someone living with dementia. Familiar songs can bring people back to life because it triggers something in the brain that ignites emotion, activity and memory. As a flautist, it's important that I share live flute performances in memory care homes and donate portable radios to provide this stimulation. If you're not a musician, I encourage you to share your talents with people living with Alzheimer's. Seniors are often forgotten and any interaction you can provide them will make a difference.
Join the Fight
Finding a cure for Alzheimer's starts with you and me. June is Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness month and I challenge you to wear purple and start a conversation about Alzheimer's. This alone will raise awareness and connect you to people who are impacted by dementia. You can also get involved with your local Alzheimer's Association chapter by becoming a volunteer, advocate or fundraiser. In addition to making general donations, you can participate in events facilitated by each chapter like The Walk to End Alzheimer's and/or The Longest Day. Funds raised help provide the crucial care, support and research that families rely on.