And so, we need to push back with a battering ram against the stereotype that Alzheimer's is merely the horrid, inevitable final stage. While the end stage is devastating, the beginning and middle stages become a lonely, painful journey, the long kiss goodbye, which often begins 15 to 20 years before diagnosis. It robs one of self. It infantilizes. Alzheimer's is not your grandfather's disease. It could be your story some day.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, about 60 percent of people who suffer from dementia wander at some point. For caregivers, this can be frightening because many of those who wander off end up confused and lost, even in their own neighborhood, and are unable to communicate who they are or where they live. But there are things you can do to guard against this and protect your loved one.
My mother is a character from a Tennessee Williams play... but without a Southern accent. I am her second child and was born when she was 16 years old. Her childhood was cut short and never spoken of in a way that imparted a sense of safety or innocence. Each man she ran away with she hoped would rescue her from the last. She gave up every child she bore to some degree.
Whatever projections exist for long term healthcare costs, unless we get on top of the Alzheimer's crisis, those projections are likely to be way understated. Due to the near perfect correlation between aging and Alzheimer's, the longevity miracle of the 20th century is yielding a health crisis for the 21st.