Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. Whether a person is in their 30s, 40s, 50s or beyond, someone develops this incurable disease every 69 seconds. That’s 5.4 million Americans, with 150,000 patients in New Jersey alone. Clearly, Alzheimer’s impacts many families.
While purple may have been last year’s fashion trend, you may find friends, family and co-workers wearing this passionate color in honor of Alzheimer’s Awareness Day. Sponsored by the New Jersey Alzheimer’s Association, efforts to raise awareness about the disease and its impact on families are taking place on November 7 during New Jersey Alzheimer’s Awareness Day, which occurs during National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. In 2007, former Governor Jon Corzine signed into law the daylong observance, which takes place the first Monday in November.
Of the top ten causes of death in the United States, Alzheimer’s is the only one that is irreversible. It cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. While death rates in general have declined in the last decade, the death rate from Alzheimer’s has increased 60 percent. That’s almost 2,000 deaths in the Garden State each year.
A form of dementia, Alzheimer’s leads to a loss of memory, personality, intellect and reasoning powers. Eventually functional disabilities occur that make it impossible to carry out the tasks of daily living. The disease can progress slowly over a period of 10 to 15 years, or it can become steadily worse in a matter of as little as five years.
In the early stages of the disease, patients commonly forget recent events, are unable to learn or remember new information and suffer from impaired concentration and deterioration in personal hygiene. As symptoms worsen, personality changes, incontinence, a voracious appetite, repetition of words and a continous compulsion to put everything in the mouth become manifestations of the disease.
According to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health, Alzheimer’s has a disproportionate impact on the women in families. Wives, mothers, sisters and daughters are more likely than their male counterparts to be involved in the day-to-day care of family members with Alzheimer’s. It can take a great toll.
To show your support, wear purple on November 7. Volunteers are also needed. Contact the New Jersey Alzheimer’s Association at 1-800-272-3900.
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