I hate Alzheimer’s disease. I abhor, loathe and detest it with every cell in my body, every ounce of my being.
Alzheimer’s is arguably the most ugly, demeaning and humiliating disease in existence. It isn’t just satisfied to destroy your memory to the point that you can’t even remember how to brush your teeth or use a toilet; no Alzheimer’s takes your sanity too, sometimes leading its victims to do and say things that deeply frighten, emotionally devastate or even physically harm the people who love and care for them.
There is nothing redeeming about Alzheimer’s disease. With AD, there is no silver lining, no blessing in disguise, and no happy ending whatsoever for anyone involved. It sucks the Spirit out of everyone it touches—patient, family and caregivers alike—until it has extinguished at least one Spirit forever, if not more.
And as you wither inside watching your loved one’s mind turn into mush, sometimes it can take everything you’ve got to hold onto some sense of meaning, some sense of faith that world isn’t random and cruel.
Alzheimer’s has been my hateful, horrifying houseguest every day for the last two and a half years. And I have a lot to say about it.
The Staggering Cost to Society
Alzheimer’s disease is now as epidemic as heart disease, diabetes or cancer in the U.S., except Alzheimer’s is always fatal. Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S., and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that can’t be cured, or even significantly slowed.
Every minute—in fact, before you get to the end of this article—another American will develop Alzheimer’s. One out of every eight adults, or 5.4 million Americans, has already been formally diagnosed, and millions more are undiagnosed—or diagnosed with some form of dementia that could actually be Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s disease cost Medicare and Medicaid $140 billion last year. Individual Medicare costs for people with AD are nearly three times higher than for seniors without the disease, and Medicaid costs are 12 times higher. As 78 million baby boomers enter their golden years, the numbers of Alzheimer’s patients is expected to grow; the cost of Alzheimer’s disease to American society is expected to be $20 trillion between now and the year 2050.
That’s right—$20 TRILLION dollars. That’s more than the total cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined!
There’s no doubt about it: We are in the midst of a national emergency, and we’re woefully unprepared.