World Alzheimer’s Month (September 2013) and Day (September 21)

September is World Alzheimer’s Month, only the second such observance ever. The idea is for organizations to run awareness-raising activities around the world for 30 days.  It’s true this Awareness Month is only a year old–a mere baby as far as “Awareness” months and weeks go-but it has so very much work to accomplish.

For starters, let’s just take a look at the facts:

  • In the face of many deadly diseases  involving years of suffering, a new survey shows that Alzheimer’s is the most feared, topping cancer and heart disease.
  • Despite the fact that it kills more Americans each year than breast and prostate cancer combined, Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is the only one in the top ten with no disease-modifying treatment, let alone cure.
  • Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the US. It is the 5th leading cause for those 65+.
  • Alzheimer’s is the only leading cause of death that is still on the rise–for example. . .
  • AD is the only major cause of death that significantly increased from 2009 to 2010, while all other major causes of death declined.
  • Every 68 seconds, someone in the US develops Alzheimer’s disease; by 2050, it will be every 33 seconds.
  • Every four seconds, a new case of dementia (not necessarily Alzheimer’s dementia, but the significant majority are) occurs somewhere in the world.
  • 1 in 8 people 65+ has Alzheimer’s and almost 1 in 2 people 85+ has it.
  • In 2010, the total worldwide cost of dementia (including other dementias, as well)- was estimated to be around $604 billion, which is about 1% of the world’s gross domestic product. This figure includes the direct costs of social and medical care and the indirect cost of care provided by family or others close to the patient.
    • Thus, if dementia were a country, it would have the world’s 18th’s largest economy (settling it between Turkey and Indonesia); and
    • If it were a company, it would have the world’s largest annual revenue, surpassing Wal-mart ($414 billion) and Exxon Mobil ($311 billion).
  •  Payments for Alzheimer’s and other dementias are projected to increase to $1.1 trillion in 2050.
  • This staggering figure will include a six-fold increase in government spending via Medicare and Medicaid, and five-fold increase in out-of-pocket spending.
  • This number vastly underestimates the real costs, since more than 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
  • In spite of the staggering numbers of people impacted by AD, our national research dollars have not kept apace.  In 2011, the National Institutes of Health spent over $6 billion  on cancer research–and less than $480 million on Alzheimer’s research. That same year the NIH spent $3 billion in AIDS research.



I’d like to say something clever and witty, but in the face of that information, I–for once–am hushed.

So let me just give you the information on the Awareness Month and Day.  Each year World Alzheimer’s Month has a theme. This year it’s “Dementia: a journey of caring” (you can get the official poster here)  and the focus of the activities will be on  the care that the dementia patients need during the course of their illness.

The Alzheimer’s Association,  has a few practical suggestions to get you moving in the face of these overwhelming statistics:
1. Take a hike.  Held annually in more than 600 communities, the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the nation’s “largest event to raise awareness and funds  for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.” Click here to find a walk near you.
2. Purple has become the color that represents the fight against Alzheimer’s. So as part of the Awareness Month you can “go purple,” downloading an image to your Facebook account or merely “Shopping purple for the cause.”
3. Read stories that inspire from those fighting to end Alzheimer’s.
Now, embedded within World Alzheimer’s Month is World Alzheimer’s Day, September 21.  Events for this day were definitely more localized, but one that kept popping up seemed extremely easy (if, I can’t help but point out, a tad bit gouache):
1. The Alzheimer’s Organization encourages one and all to “grab your family and friends and join us” (get ready for this one) at. . . Ruby Tuesdays (select locations). While you’re debating between the top sirloin, the rib eye, and the petite sirloin with lobster, you can hand your server this  FLYER. The restaurant will give 20% of your purchase to the local Walk to End Alzheimer’s [which you recall–I hope–l from #1 above].
2. Once again you can . . Go purple! They encourage you to go purple from your bangles to your pumps, and, once you’re truly purple-fied, do the following:
  • GO PURPLE at your school or office! Have all of your co-workers or students wear purple on 9/21
  • Decorate your breakroom or common area in purple
  • Post important facts about Alzheimer’s disease throughout your workplace to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease. . ., available resources and how people can get involved with the cause! The Alzheimer’s Association can provide you with these fact sheets! Call 800.272.3900 for more information!
  • Casual for a Cause Goes Purple! Everyone loves to go casual at work! Order casual for a cause stickers and sell them for $5 to your co-workers and have a “Casual for the Cause” day on Friday, September 21st! The proceeds can benefit your Walk team! Click here to order your stickers or contact Kaarmin Ford at kaarmin.ford@alz.org or 800.272.3900. Download the flier here.
And if, by chance, you raise money on your walk, or give back at Ruby Tuesdays, or make 5 bucks on a cause sticker, just think of all the useful places that money can go. There’s money needed for research and money to go to Medicare and Medicaid and to disability–and. . .
Do you remember those 15 million America who provide unpaid care to an AD person, usually a spouse or a parent? It’s estimated that their care and work is worth over–listen up, daughters and sons, husbands and wives–$210 billion.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if those who do a labor of love, with no expectation of payment in return, and care for an Alzheimer’s patient, sometimes for years, sometimes decades, often in some very difficult circumstances, were to one day get some reward or acknowledgement for all the pieces of their own lives they had given up to manage the care of a loved one slowly becoming a shell of her own existence, a fragrance of a memory of what she once was?
Be that as it may, in the time you’ve spent reading this, at least one person has contracted Alzheimer’s disease.
Something must be done.

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