None of us know how our life will unfold but I imagine most people want to live a long, healthy, and full life. If we are fortunate enough to live into old age, we also hope for a high quality of life. Having mental sharpness, good mobility, being able to form new memories and reminisce on old, along with other aspects easily taken for granted in youth.
Unfortunately, this dream is not the situation for over 5 million Americans age 65+ who are living with Alzheimer's dementia in 2020. Without any sort of medical breakthrough, nearly 15 million Americans will have Alzheimer's dementia in 2050*.
Back in 2007 my Grandma, Harriet, was one of these people whose life would never quite be the same. Initially the doctors diagnosed her with "mild cognitive impairment," which was an early sign for the likelihood of something more serious.
At the time I was only 13 years old and really didn't understand what this meant. To be honest, I don't think anyone in our family truly understood the scope of the disease, how rapidly it would progress, and how it would affect Grandma.
Early on the impact was only noticeable in small ways. Losing jewelry more frequently, accidentally throwing away full bags of food, or continuously cleaning despite no mess.
But time went on and the disease progressed. New memories were difficult to form, names were forgotten, and the lively and loving personality of our Grandma slowly changed.
Yet through it all she continued to teach us about unconditional love, courage, adversity, the fragility of life, and the power of a simple smile. She brought us closer together as a family and gave us a deep appreciation for life. We knew things could be worse, so we were grateful for being able to hug her and hear her laugh.
Grandma passed away in September 2020 after living with Alzheimer's dementia for 13 years. The journey brought many challenges and pain, but I'm glad she has found peace once again.
I would not be who I am today without my Grandma. No doubt, her adventurous spirit, competitiveness, determination, love for athletics, and mission to leave the world a better place have carried over to our entire family and other people who knew her.
Through this run I hope to carry her spirit and legacy forward while creating a better world for the millions of other people affected by the disease.
Before, during, and after the run, I am raising money for the Alzheimer's Association. If you'd like to support the cause, please click the button below. Any donation is greatly appreciated from our entire family.
Alzheimer's is a disease that only takes away from you. As of now, there is no recovery, healing, or getting back to how you once were. It cannot be slowed down, prevented, or cured.
In the U.S., Alzheimer's is the sixth-leading cause of death, and the fifth-leading cause of death for those 65 and older. Shockingly, it kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined*.
Globally, nearly 47 million people are living with Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia. This number is expected to reach 76 million people by 2030.
While the impact of Alzheimer's is greatest on the individual diagnosed, it also causes strain in ways often overlooked. It changes the lives of people closest to the individual - their partner, family, and friends - and demands a full-time caregiver, whether a professional or someone else.
Approximately two-thirds of caregivers are woman, and one-third of these caregivers are daughters. In 2019, caregivers provided an estimated 18.6 billion hours of unpaid care, a contribution to the nation valued at $244 billion*.
Alarmingly, 50% of primary care physicians believe the medical profession is not ready to care for the growing number of people with Alzheimer's or other dementias*. This means the strain and cost for our entire country will only get worse.
I encourage you to read the Facts & Figures Report from the Alzheimer's Association to get a full picture of just how important it is to try to understand and fight this disease.