Alzheimer’s: The health battle we are losing & the war they hope to win

Courtesy: Joe Walters

Joe Walters, Sue Arroyo and Patty Papour present check to Alzheimer’s Association

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The numbers tell the story. We are losing the battle against Alzheimer’s.

While deaths due to many other health conditions are declining, Alzheimer’s rates are skyrocketing.

More than 5 million Americans are currently living with the disease, for which there is no prevention and no cure. If one is not found, experts estimate the number of cases will triple by 2050.

Not only is Alzheimer’s terminal, it is progressive. While most patients suffer four to six years before death, some live as long as 20 years. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the average patient spends 40% of his or her remaining years in the most advanced form of the disease.

Beyond the emotional toll, the disease also takes an incredible financial toll on many families.

For those who choose to place a loved one in a residential facility, there is the high cost of professional care. For those who care for relatives at home, there is time away from work and other duties. In 2013, reports showed 15.5 million caregivers provided more than 17 billion hours of unpaid care, valued at more than $220 billion.

It is into this environment that people like Joe Walters must learn to find their way. In 2000, his wife of 43 years began showing signs of the dementia that would eventually take her life.

Walters spent more than a decade caring for his wife. After her death in 2013, he helped organize the Canebrake Memorial Golf Tournament to support the Mid South Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. That inaugural effort in September raised more than $22,133 and plans are already in the works for next year’s tournament.

Brandi Medina, with the Mid South chapter, says the Alzheimer’s Association continues to fund research that will hopefully lead to a cure or at least, better treatment options. However until the disease can be eradicated, the association will continue to provide its free services.

There are support groups, educational programs and a 24-hour helpline. Operators are available seven days a week at (800) 272-3900.

The Alzheimer’s Association can also put families in touch with other resources. Whether you need respite care, counseling or help navigating benefits, the association can point you in the right direction.

The Huntsville area office is located at 117A Longwood Dr, S.E. The phone number is (256) 880-1575. An open house is scheduled from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. on December 8th. All are invited to stop by and learn more about the services offered.