Christina Greer: Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

by Christina Greer, Ph.D.

I recently learned that June is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. It seems like each week a friend has shared that a loved one is in the process of living with Alzheimers. As many know, Alzheimer’s is defined as a disease that is a progressive neurologic disorder that causes the brain to shrink and brain cells to die. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia—a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills that affects a person’s ability to function independently.

So many friends have shared their struggles taking care of loved ones who slowly lose the ability to remember basic facts, events, friends, and even family members. With more than 3 million cases diagnosed in the U.S. alone, this disease has caused great strain on families as they try to figure out the best path of care for their loved ones.

The seven signs of Alzheimer’s disease include: memory loss that affects daily life, loss of problem-solving ability, confusion about times and places, limitations with language, misplacing things, poor judgment, and personality changes. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease typically progresses slowly in three general stages: early, middle and late. The stages are sometimes referred to as mild, moderate and severe in a medical context. It is important to remember that each person may experience symptoms differently. Individuals may also progress through the stages differently.

Since Alzheimer’s affects people in different ways, each family may struggle or cope with Alzheimer’s disease in different ways, and the financial toll on families may also be different.

During the month of June, the Alzheimer’s Association is asking people to wear purple to raise awareness of the disease that has increasingly touched more and more communities. June 21st is the longest day of the year and is also the day with the most light, most commonly known as the summer solstice. So, on June 21st the Alzheimer’s Association is asking people from across the world to help fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s through a fundraising activity of their choice. On their website, www.alz.org, you can find resources and ways to participate at home, online or in-person. They have several ideas and ways to engage family and friends in their efforts.

Whether you are personally touched by Alzheimer’s disease or just want to learn more, go to www.alz.org. You can also use #ENDALZ on social media and share why you raise awareness for Alzheimer’s.

And as a preview, if you are not able to mobilize your efforts in June, September is World Alzheimer’s month. The global organizers want to shine a purple light for the 35.6 million people globally afflicted with Alzheimer’s. Whether here or abroad, we can do our part to help support individuals and families finding ways to live and thrive while dealing with Alzheimer’s. Let’s all do our part.

(Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University.)

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