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President Ronald Reagan: His Impact on the Awareness of Alzheimer's Disease

Posted by on 11/17/2015
November was first proclaimed National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month back in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan, when only about 2 million Americans had the disease.  In 1994, President Reagan revealed that he himself had Alzheimer's disease.  The actions of President Reagan started to raise awareness and decrease stigmas for Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, which now number 5.3 million Americans.  However, there are still a lot of misconceptions about this condition. Learn some of the basic facts below.

The Basic Facts of Alzheimer's and Related Dementias

  • Dementia and Alzheimer's are not the same thing (read more about the difference between Alzheimer's and dementia).  Dementia refers to the collection of symptoms, then can usually be diagnosed as a specific type.  Alzheimer's disease is the most common form. Other forms include Lewy-body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, vascular dementia, and Parkinson's related dementia.
  • Alzheimer's attacks the brain's nerve cells, affecting memory, thinking, and language skills.
  • The brain 'damage' that is going inside is not clearly visible, so people around the person affected may not recognize the deficits and not understand why the person does what he does or behaves a certain way.
  • There currently are no treatments to stop the disease process.
  • Dementia, no matter the type, affects the person's ability to perform daily tasks with more and more difficulties over time. Initially, more complex tasks are affected, such as managing money accounts, medication routines, and driving. Later, more everyday tasks are affected, such as dressing and bathing.
  • Behavioral symptoms - which can include sundowning, shadowing (following a caregiver around), asking repeated questions, anxiety and/or anger - are common as the brain no longer can correctly process information that is coming in to the brain to make an appropriate response.
  • Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia not only affect the person with the condition but also the people that surround him or her, as they try to manage and cope with the symptoms and losses. (find help to manage difficult behaviors)
  • Life does not end with a dementia diagnosis. The person CAN still do things, just in a different way. (receive 10 Tips for Staying Active with Dementia tipsheet)
  • People with dementia NEED their friends, family, neighbors, community members, former co-workers, etc to work hard to learn more about this condition and provide the person with the support that is needed. (read how to have a nice visit with the person with dementia).

What other facts to you think people unfamiliar with Alzheimer's and other dementias need to know?  Comment below.  And SHARE to continue the message of awareness that  President Reagan started so many years ago.


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