She walks along the same path every time she takes her daily walk. She is 76 years old, not as active as she used to be and she lives alone. Cooking for one is a challenge so her nutrition suffers because of it. She has lost weight. Yet, every day she takes a walk: just a stroll down her street and around the block.
Lately her mind has been slipping a little and she scolds herself for forgetting the obvious ones: where she left her keys or her hair appointment yesterday. But no harm done. She will make another appointment and eventually her keys will turn up.
As the days go by, she will scold herself a few more times. She put a can of soup on the stove for lunch and forgot it was there…until she smelled it burning. For the second month in a row, she forgot to pay the water bill, but thankfully they called her and she was able to pay it over the phone. She called her bank because she was sure someone was stealing money out of her account, the bank reassured her that all was well with her account, but still she sure she believed them.
She walks down the street, enjoying the fall colors and the birds singing. Another walker has a dog and she stops to pet it and chats with the person, then continues on her walk. She goes to the corner and notices a lot is being cleared for a new home. Because she doesn’t recognize it, she walks farther to the next corner before she makes the turn.
Inside it doesn’t feel right, but surely it is. After all, she walks this way every day. As she continues to move on, a prickle of fear wells up. She realizes nothing is familiar. She keeps walking hoping to find something – anything – that tells her she is in the right place. That moment doesn’t come. She is tired from walking and now that prickle is a panic. How will she get home? She doesn’t have the strength and she has no idea where she is.
This fictional account of one woman’s struggle is all too common and it could be a day in the life of more than five million American’s living with Alzheimer’s disease. In the state of Florida alone, 510,000 seniors and their families are suffering with the disease. According to www.alz.org, by 2020, that number is projected to rise to 580,000 and by 2025 it will further increase to a projected 720,000. That is a 41.2% increase just in Florida.
Eventually she will forget how to swallow, she will not recognize her family. She will not be able to live at home alone. She will become more prone to falls and susceptible to pneumonia. She may become more agitated and difficult to deal with. Family will move in to take care of her. And they will be part of the more than 15 million caregivers nationwide who provided an estimated 18.1 billion hours of unpaid care in 2016.
November was National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness month. This cause is about preserving memories and life. Researchers are closer than ever to taking this dreaded disease out of our lives for good. But research requires dollars – your dollars. You can donate at www.alz.org.
Chances are you or someone you know will be affected by this silent stealer of memories.