Imagine not remembering your own children. Forgetting the love and memories shared over a lifetime of marriage. Feeling lost in your daily surroundings. For the more than 5.2 million Americans currently living with Alzheimer's disease, there is no need to imagine. This is reality.
Ahead of World Alzheimer's Day on Sept. 21, it is a somber reminder that we must do more to find an answer to this disease that steals the life from our mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers. Unless treatments are found, projections say as many as 14 million people nationwide will cope with the disease and costs are projected to soar to $1.2 trillion (in today's dollars) by 2050.
Many don't realize how Alzheimer's is a ticking time bomb facing an aging population with colossal personal, medical and economic impact. This dramatic increase of individuals suffering with Alzheimer's would lead to a 500 percent spike in combined Medicare and Medicaid spending, essentially spending every health care dollar on fighting the disease without any to spare for other illnesses.
Alzheimer's disease is not just an illness that affects one person. It affects the entire family. For the more than 15 million caregivers in the United States, the emotional stress of being a caregiver can trigger harm on one's physical and mental health.
The need has never been greater to find a breakthrough for Alzheimer's. However, public policy changes, new scientific strategies and the commitment of those ready to support the cause make now the time to accelerate advances in Alzheimer's prevention and embark on a new era of research.
However, what's missing is people willing to step up and move this research forward. We as a field need more research volunteers. We need you because we're all in this together.
One of the biggest misconceptions about clinical trials is the research mostly needs people to enroll who are ill and have no other options. On the contrary, much of the Alzheimer's research on the horizon needs individuals without symptoms as the scientific focus is on prevention and not treating the disease.
Another major barrier in research lies in clinical trials recruitment. Because most trials require specific criteria for participation, scientists must consider thousands potential participants which can delay research significantly. To put this in perspective, we may need to evaluate 30,000 people to fill a 2,000 person trial.
With multiple trials taking place simultaneously, this mean we need hundreds of thousands of people start this research without delay. We as scientists provide the science and the ideas, but we can't do anything without the help of people invested in this research to commit. We as a field need more research volunteers. We need you because we're all in this together.
Take one minute out of your day to join me in signing up for the Alzheimer's Prevention Registry. I joined in honor of my grandfather who succumbed to the disease nearly two years ago. From birthdays and graduations, to weddings and children, our lives are filled with precious memories. But Alzheimer's has the power to erase them. Let your voice be heard. The memories you save could be your own.