Very soon, the highly anticipated 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, a statistical resource provided by the Alzheimer’s Association for our nation’s data related to Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia, as well as other dementias, is being released.
It is a comprehensive look that brings home in statistically stark reality the prevalence and impact Alzheimer’s is having on our family, friends, our neighbors and our nation. Alzheimer’s costs can be measured in billions in healthcare dollars, millions of caregiver hours and limitless heartache.
At once our nation’s report card on the effectiveness of our efforts to diagnose and preventing the disease, as well as a type of forecast for what the future of the Alzheimer’s epidemic may look like. The Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures data seems to be cited in most new stories when the topic of Alzheimer’s comes up, from CNN to your backyard neighborhood bulletin. We look for the insight into… what is Alzheimer’s? Who is getting Alzheimer’s? Who’s caring for person’s with Alzheimer’s? Where do people with Alzheimer’s typically live? How much does their care cost? What is the average lifespan after initial diagnosis? How much closer are we to early diagnosis, and more importantly, a cure?
Everybody seems to quote the report; whether they’re at a national news desk, the speaker’s podium of a healthcare symposium or at the kitchen table trying to talk to a spouse about worrisome cognitive changes. When stories about Alzheimer’s are shared, the source of most data, most of what we do know about the disease, comes from the pages of this report.
The report is prepared by the Alzheimer’s Association, whose vision is “A world without Alzheimer’s disease.” The Association serves as “the world’s leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research and largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research.” It works to “connect with scientific, academic, government and industry thought-leaders and key stakeholders worldwide.”
It is important to note, however that the organization about to get so much international attention for the gold standard of researching and disseminating Alzheimer’s statistics, has at its’ heart an organizational culture of service to the individual, to the person.
In fact, the logo of the Alzheimer’s Association is so familiar to all of us, but few know what its’ symbolism really represents. The shape is actually symbolic of the organization’s equal commitment to both providing social service and furthering scientific research. The logo represents the outline of a person’s head next to the outline of scientist’s beaker. Equal parts person-centered and scientifically minded, this is the organization that offers 24-hour help lines, web-based and in person support groups, curates the largest Alzheimer’s specific library and offers countless community and professional educational seminars and a myriad of other programs through their over 100 Chapters in all 50 states.
The positive impact of the Facts and Figures report may be hard to quantify. Its far-reaching influence likely finds its way into policy conversations with our legislators, planning committee meetings with our nation’s highest level healthcare administrators and strategic planning sessions with leading scientists.
These new numbers will be referenced again and again in the coming weeks and months. Our hope is that they serve as a catalyst to further the conversation in our country on how to cope with the Alzheimer’s epidemic.
As we hear these reports, let’s do our part to share that the organization behind these figures, though an international leader in the search for an Alzheimer’s cure, also offers real relief to those impacted by the disease right now.
Let’s raise our voices to thank anyone who is increasing Alzheimer’s awareness by talking about these statistics, while gently reminding them that every single one of those numbers has a name, behind every single statistic is a story, and behind every single pie chart lies a little bit of heartbreak.
For the families who have lost a loved one, who are currently caring for a loved one, or organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association that offer support for everyone, these numbers are a sad reminder that, until there’s a cure, it will remain our job to make sure these numbers always have names.
For me, that name is Bill.
Written by Bill’s granddaughter,