Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging, although the greatest known risk factor is increasing age. The majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older, but up to 5 percent of people with the disease have early onset Alzheimer’s, which often appears when someone is in their 40s or 50s. My husband is one of those with early onset Alzheimer’s.
The disease accounts for 50 to 80 percent of dementia cases and is so widespread it has become a worldwide epidemic. It is a progressive brain disorder that damages and eventually destroys brain cells, leading to memory loss and changes in thinking and other brain functions. Symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation or to respond to their environment.
Those with Alzheimer’s live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others, but survival can range from four to 20 years, depending on age and other health conditions. Today, there is a worldwide effort under way to find better ways to treat the disease, delay its onset, and prevent it from developing. Some medications that temporarily help slow the progress of the disease in some patients do exist. But ultimately, Alzheimer’s is fatal for all who suffer from it. Currently, there is no cure.
In this blog I will chronicle my husband and my Alzheimer’s journey. Not because I have any new insights or wisdom to share concerning the disease itself, but because the human story behind the disease is common to us all. I hope you will come on our journey with us.