Monday, April 26, 2010

My Daily Reminder From Walt, The Barber

It's a trite expression; but in this case, it is one that is very true. Not a single day goes by that I don't think of Walt. He comes to mind every morning as I visit his calendar on my desk. What makes my thoughts linger there, however, is how I came to have that calendar. Walt gave me his "2010 Walt's Barber Shop" calendar last summer, some six months before he usually gives them out. There was a reason. Walt has Alzheimer's Disease. I have been planning to devote a column to Alzheimer's in the near future; but a conversation I had over the weekend moved "the near future" to Monday--to today. The conversation that changed the schedule was with someone who has a loved one recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's. So I would like to jump in now, to add my voice to others who are working to create awareness of the problem that is Alzheimer's; and to create understanding of what those afflicted, and their families, are going through. In other causes I have come to champion--homelessness and poverty--I also try to show that there is hope. With Alzheimer's disease, the only hope is that there will somehow be a groundswell of public opinion that will prompt government action to fund research. At this point in time, there is not only no known cure for Alzheimer's, there is a lack of funding for research to find a cure. As for awareness, thee are misconceptions that need to be addressed. A lot of folks do not look upon Alzheimer's Disease as a fatal disease. Nothing could be further from the truth. Life expectancy after diagnosis of Alzheimer's is just seven years. Many people look upon Alzheimer's disease as a fairly recent development. Again, not true. The disease first drew national attention more than a hundred years ago, when Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German physician, brought to light this most common form of dementia. As for the future, Dr. William Thies, of the Alzheimer's Association, predicts that by the year 2020, Alzheimer's will be the nation's "primary public health problem". As for hope, that relies on research, and research relies on funding, and funding relies on action by Congress, and Congress? Congress, many of whose members will live past 85, needs to be reminded that one out of every two persons over 85 will be afflicted with some form of dementia--most likely Alzheimer's. (Editor's Note: There are two earlier articles about Alzheimer's......"Putting Homelessness In Perspective" September 10, and "The Quiet Courage Of A Barber Named Walt" Septeber 28.)