Dementia and Alzheimer’s

I’ve attended two community events concerning dementia in the last two weeks. The first was a support group for people who are caring for their parents or spouse or siblings who live with dementia. The other was an educational seminar about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Both were eye opening.

The support group was more than eye opening – it was shocking!

A few of the stories of the participants in the support group were difficult to hear. Families torn apart by the burden of caring for a loved one was something I have not experienced. The different ways siblings respond to this pressure – some assuming care giving responsibility while others totally throw up their hands and walk away – was upsetting.

The role that money and dividing up the estate – sometimes before the parents have passed and sometimes involving money grabs by family members at the expense of other family members – was ugly and not something I expected. As I left that session, I better understood why dementia and Alzheimer’s receive so much attention in our society. They cause great pain and stress for many, many families.

The second event I attended, the educational seminar, reviewed the biology of dementia and Alzheimer’s and briefly outlined the current research being conducted in the field.

This event had nowhere near the emotional impact of the support group, but was just as interesting. One thing about Americans, we like to take problems head on. That is clearly what we are doing with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

We are working hard to understand the root causes of the conditions and to find ways to address the root causes. We are working hard to find ways to understand and deal with the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s on individuals and families. I walked out of this session sobered, but with a sense that we as a society are building the knowledge base and support systems we need to deal with the family and surrounding medical issues.

~ Nick Kirby