BRACK: The possibility that the brain will begin to fade before the body is ready is a terrifying scenario for anyone who earns a living through the power of their brain.
That is what happens with dementia, whether caused by degenerative Alzheimer’s disease or a variety of conditions caused by brain injury and other ailments.
In recent days, the tragedy of Alzheimer’s disease has struck close to home twice. A visit from an out-of-state family indicated the onset of dementia in a longtime friend who had recently retired. The once gregarious friend is still functional, but she is more timid than ever. He frequently struggles with deciding what to order from a menu or how to respond to new information. He’s fortunate to have a partner who is fully committed to keeping him engaged and present.
The same can be said for a Georgia couple we read about in a sad but comforting essay. The husband provides physical and emotional support to his wife, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016.
“We have shared the journey of life, but each doing their part on a 50-50 basis,” he wrote of their 50-plus-year marriage. “Our journey is changing, and the shared components are probably 80-20 today, but this varies from day to day.” To clarify, my ‘caregiving’ is actually ‘care partnering,’ as [my wife] still looks after some of my or both of our activities.”
His assistance includes a variety of household chores, but he also reads to his wife and entertains her with videos, webinars, and music. They go to parks, hike, work in the yard, and do other things.
“When we’re together, I try to be’where she is,'” he recently wrote. “Doing so makes her feel more at ease and reduces her confusion.” “I try to be empathic, compassionate, accepting, patient, and tolerant.”
Unfortunately, as the American population ages, Alzheimer’s disease becomes more prevalent. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 125,000 South Carolinians are likely to have the disease by 2025, a 26% increase since 2020. Every year, nearly 200,000 people in the state – or 4% of the population – are involved in disease caregiving. According to data, they provide 296 million hours of unpaid care per year, valued at $4.3 billion.
“South Carolina has some of the highest incidence and prevalence rates in the country, with minority populations in the state having twice the risk of Alzheimer’s disease than those of European descent,” said Charleston Dr. Jacobo Mintzer, a leading Alzheimer’s researcher. “We warmly welcome retirees to our state, but they will require more than manicured golf courses.”
But, as Mintzer pointed out, there is still hope.
“Alzheimer’s disease can and will be cured if we all put forth the necessary effort and resources.”
Alzheimer’s patients in South Carolina, according to Mintzer, can participate in promising new therapeutics for the disease.
“At the moment, people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease have access to two types of FDA-approved treatments as well as a variety of clinical trials that provide them with the opportunity to receive promising, new treatments in the context of a research project,” he explained. “Also, and perhaps more importantly, physicians can provide treatments to alleviate symptoms such as agitation, aggression, depression, apathy, and psychosis.” Typically, these symptoms result in caregiver burden and the need for institutional placement.
“We can expect a number of treatments to be approved in the coming years that will slow the progression of the disease and turn Alzheimer’s disease into a chronic rather than fatal disorder.”
Alzheimer’s disease robs the souls of elderly South Carolinians. Let us ensure that leaders across the state, including state lawmakers who control the state budget’s surpluses, make the necessary investments to provide access to the types of specialised medical tools and care required by more than 100,000 people in the Palmetto State. These investments will pay off in ways other than just providing peace of mind.