June is Alzheimer’s and Brain awareness month, and Alzheimer’s disease is a subject that is very personal to me. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s and I saw firsthand the toll it takes on a family, and the love and patience that is required to care for someone with the disease.
My whole family suffered with her, especially my aunt who became her full time caregiver. My toughest memories of that time are those of my grandmother forgetting who we were. That’s why it became my mission as Mayor to help Bostonians dealing with the disease. There are steps we can take to encourage early detection, connection to information and resources for patients and caregivers, and to support the research needed to better understand and eventually find a cure for this terrible disease.
Boston’s older adult population is growing; in fact, older adults make up the fastest growing demographic. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 10,000 Boston residents suffer with Alzheimer’s disease and this number is expected to increase as our population grows. The increase in Alzheimer’s disease prevalence in our population will reach beyond the immediate circle and will impact our healthcare organizations, our employers, our neighborhoods and our residents.
That’s why last year I launched a multifaceted initiative to address Alzheimer’s disease led by my Commission on Affairs of the Elderly. The first step we took was to join the Alzheimer’s Workplace Alliance, arming thousands of City employees with the support and resources to be better informed about the disease, the warning signs and the importance of early detection. And starting this fall, we will be partnering with the Alzheimer’s Association to train first responders and other city staff to be “dementia capable.”
What we’re doing in city government is important, but together we can take even more steps to tackle Alzheimer’s. Everyone should know the 10 warning signs: memory loss that disrupts daily life; challenges in planning or solving problems; difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure; confusion with time or place; trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships; new problems with words in speaking or writing; misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps; decreased or poor judgment; withdrawal from work or social activities; and changes in mood and personality.
Early detection matters. Research shows that early intervention may help slow the progression of the disease.
Boston is home to the some of the best research hospitals and universities in the world. Dedicated and passionate researchers are working hard every day at many of the major research institutions in Boston. We can help make progress on this disease by participating in research trials. Clinical trials help researchers test new ways to detect, treat and prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. One way to find a clinical trial is through the Alzheimer’s Association TrialMatch®. This is a free, easy-to-use clinical study matching service that connects individuals with Alzheimer’s, caregivers, healthy volunteers, and physician’s with current studies in the area.
To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease, research currently being done, what life is like with Alzheimer’s disease, how to get help, and much more, go to www.alz.org/manh or www.alzheimers.gov. Businesses can also play a role in educating and supporting their workforce. I encourage all businesses to follow our lead and sign on to the Alzheimer’s Workplace Alliance and connect their employees with Alzheimer’s information and resources.
I thank health care providers, researchers, and patient advocates who are working hard every day to find a cure for this disease, and the caregivers for their patience, kindness and selflessness in caring for loved ones and clients. And we must honor the individuals who both live with or have lost their lives to this disease.
Together we can make Boston a supportive place for people affected by Alzheimer’s, and give family members the knowledge, understanding, and tools to cope with what can be a difficult situation.
Martin J. Walsh is the current Mayor for the City of Boston.