The following was submitted by Sheepshead Bay resident Jeanine Grimaldi, whose family wrestles with the effects of Alzheimer’s disease every day.
Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia, affects an estimated 5.4 million Americans. Although this disease is most commonly known for its major symptom — memory loss — it comprises so much more. Typical Alzheimer’s patients feel disoriented, confused and, have drastic mood and behavior changes. They can often become suspicious of family members and friends and, during the later stages of the disease, have difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.
These symptoms are caused by plaques and tangles, two different types of proteins that build up in the brain. Scientists do not fully understand this build-up but believe it plays a critical role in blocking communication among nerve cells in the brain. We still have a long way to go in beating this disease, but we are heading in the right direction. On May 15, 2012, the Obama Administration released the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s in which the major goal is to effectively treat and prevent this disease by 2025.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are currently more than 320,000 people over the age of 65 in New York alone who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. This number does not include the growing number of people in their 50s who have been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.