Faced With Alzheimer’s Disease, We’re Buoyed by Grace
Last Wednesday would have been my mother’s 94th birthday. While she wasn’t famous, she was an exceptional person before Alzheimer’s disease claimed her life, and she is the inspiration for this column.
Of course, there was no guarantee that without Alzheimer’s she would have lived long enough to witness her youngest grandchild’s high school graduation this year, or countless other events that have happened since she left us nearly a decade ago. However, given her parents’ age at their passing, it wouldn’t have surprised me if she’d have surpassed the nonagenarian years if she’d survived Alzheimer’s.
I think of my mother every day, but as I write this, I’m a little surprised at how much I miss her. What’s not surprising, though, is how fervently I detest Alzheimer’s disease.
A despicable disease
I despised my mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 2003. I loathed the ravages the disease brought upon her. It’s impossible to fathom what Alzheimer’s does to a person until you actually walk with them during this difficult journey.
I imagine that if you’re reading this, you might have reason to hate Alzheimer’s disease, too. Perhaps like me, you might be mourning the slow and final loss of a parent. Or maybe you’ve been diagnosed with early-onset dementia and are in the grips of fear.
Detesting this disease is fine — in fact, let’s hate it together. But as we do, let’s not lose sight of the power of grace. We may be treading dark waters, but grace is a life buoy that raises us up and prevents us from drowning.
Signs of progress
My mother was diagnosed with the most common form of dementia two decades ago, and even then, she had access to good healthcare, medication, and a clinical trial that helped to slow its progression. Fast-forward to this year, and scientists and researchers are diligently working to find a cure. And they seem to be getting closer.
Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Aduhelm (aducanumab) as the first new Alzheimer’s drug in 20 years. While there are some concerns about its approval, such as the exorbitant cost for patients and possible negative side effects, Aduhelm does look promising.
Designed to help clear amyloid plaques from the brain of Alzheimer’s patients, Aduhelm is a significant milestone on the journey toward finding a cure. With continuous scientific research happening, more medications like this will certainly follow. I believe we will eventually reach a cure.
Alzheimer’s research funding increases
In 2019, Alzheimer’s research funding reached an all-time high in the United States. That year, Congress announced a $350 million increase proposal for Alzheimer’s and dementia research funding at the National Institutes of Health for the following year, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Its passage boosted funding in this area to a whopping $2.8 billion.
Alzheimer’s research funding has increased because the disease is gaining more national attention, thanks to the support of the U.S. federal government and nonprofit organizations. The Alzheimer’s Association, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Aging, and the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation are currently funding such research, including clinical trials, which increased in frequency last year, thanks particularly to academic medical centers.
More of this kind of attention is a good thing, and there are more clinical trials today than ever before.
The Alzheimer’s Association has boldly claimed that the “first survivor of Alzheimer’s disease is out there.” That hope didn’t exist for my mother, and no one spoke of a cure during her lifetime. Imagine if the first survivor of Alzheimer’s disease really were living today. Could this be true?
Maybe your loved one will survive this disease. Or maybe you will.
Hatred may be the fuel that drives us toward a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but grace buoys us while we wait. My mother isn’t here to celebrate her birthday. If she were, I’d make a beautiful cake with candles, blow them out, and wish for a cure for her disease. I can’t make that wish for her, but I want it to come to fruition all the same.
Happy birthday, Mom!
Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.