A legislative column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease.
Of the 5.3 million Americans with Alzheimer’s, an estimated 5.1 million people are age 65 and older and approximately 200,000 individuals are under age 65.
Research shows that almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.
Sadly, because it is a degenerative disease the symptoms usually worsen over time and it becomes harder for people to function independently.
For these reasons and others, it is important that Alzheimer’s is diagnosed early so that doctors can try to curb the symptoms with medications with the hope of prolonging independent living.
Early diagnosis also can help families create a plan for treatment and services.
Some patients, for example, benefit from cognitive or music therapy and researchers suspect the onset of symptoms can be delayed through exercise and a healthy lifestyle, which can be planned with a physician.
There is hope too in research.
Scientists are now focusing on finding a way to diagnose Alzheimer’s before people show symptoms.
The hope is that future treatments could then target the disease in its earliest stages, before irreversible brain damage or mental decline has occurred.
This year, the State Legislature passed legislation (A5318) that, if signed into law, will create a database of programs around the state that are successful in treating Alzheimer’s disease.
Through greater collaboration among caregivers, more people can benefit from services and programs that have been proven to be successful.
Congress too recently acknowledged the need for more research and has committed to increasing funding for Alzheimer’s research.
Raising awareness and understanding can also help ease the shock of the diagnosis.
Famous past leaders like Ronald Reagan suffered from Alzheimer’s and his willingness to come forth and admit that in 1994 helped people to understand its far-reaching effects, that the disease doesn’t discriminate.
He expressed hope that by sharing his story, it would help build a constructive national conversation and a clearer understanding of the people affected by the disease.
To learn more about Alzheimer’s, visit http://www.alz.org/ or contact the local Offices of the Aging.
Oswego County residents may call (315) 349-3484.
Jefferson County residents may call (315) 785-3191 and Onondaga County residents may call (315) 435-2362 for information.
If you have any questions or comments or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.